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Alright. The First Snowden Trailer Is Out—Oliver Stone, What Have You Done?

There’s a reason why this movie’s release was delayed

Wow. So—okay. Before we get into the tacky horror that is the first Snowden trailer, let’s do a quick recap of how we got to this point, because the red flags have been waving on this movie for months.


Oliver Stone’s latest was supposed to bow last Christmas, but got bumped all the way to September of this year. By revoking the holiday release, the production company effectively said “We don’t want this running during awards season.” Open Road officially said the movie wasn’t finished yet, but come on. Any time a major movie event from a landmark director “isn’t finished” in time for its theatrical release—especially when the Oscar deadline is involved—it usually implies “We are trying to salvage this thing but haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”

And damn, that seems to be the case for Snowden, too. This feels like The Fifth Estate 2.0, a really good director taking on a subject that is so inherently dramatic and thrilling and interesting they have no excuse for screwing it up. This is the Edward Snowden case! The man is responsible for the biggest leak of U.S. government documents in the history of ever. He’s currently living in Russia so he can’t be extradicted and arrested for treason in his home country. Intrigue! Drama! International safe havens from domestic imprisonment! This movie, just like The Fifth Estate, should have gotten all the Oscar nominations by default. But instead it looks completely hackneyed.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like he’s doing his best, but the accent is just too distracting. The visualizations of “technology” look straight up Hackers, which was forgivable for Hackers because it was 1995 and the World Wide Web was still a series a tubes. But this is 2016. So stop it with the radical waves of bits and pixels! Nic Cage’s character actually says “Find the terrorists in the internet haystack.” This could have been an important movie about one of the most consquential figures in American history, but instead it looks like another swing and a miss in Oliver Stone’s 21st century filmography.

Snowden doesn’t come out until the fall, and it’s possible that it could surprise and be really good. But until we’re proven wrong we’ll be at home watching the documentary Citizenfour, in which a filmmaker and a journalist talk to the actual Edward Snowden, and make a pretty damn good movie in the process.

Sorry, JGL. You deserved better.

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