In 2013, Edward Snowden provided proof that the American government’s scope of surveillance around the world – including its own citizenry – was even more massive and pernicious than most of us thought. The revelation landed, more or less, with a thud, largely because much of the news media focused more on the size of the leak than the substance of it.
This wasn’t without reason.
With the increasing overreach of the Patriot Act and its various tendrils, Americans have grown more comfortable with – or cynically resigned to – trading liberty for security. Furthermore, social media has made fervent oversharers of us all, emboldening our belief that most law-abiding citizens have nothing to hide. And finally, the story’s hacker veneer was enough to make plenty of people think it was too complicated for them to understand.
Snowden exists to dismantle the attitudes espoused above, to humanize its namesake, and to do so in a more accessibly entertaining fashion than 2014’s unnerving (and essential) documentary Citizenfour. With just a few months left in Obama’s presidency, the clock is ticking on Snowden’s (remote) chance of being pardoned anytime soon. The movie’s advocacy is admirable, but its task of appealing to the masses renders it a stock biopic, and the recency of the events it depicts makes its artifice all the more apparent.