Here's another remarkable biopic from Oliver Stone, who has used all-star casts and intensely pointed filmmaking to trace the lives of such people as JFK, Nixon, Jim Morrison and George W. Bush. And now he turns his attention to whistleblower Edward Snowden. This is an urgent, skilfully made film that manages to avoid preachy politics as it asks the central question: was Snowden a traitor or a patriot?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Ed, a nerdy genius who never went to university but was spotted by CIA trainer Corbin (Rhys Ifans) and brought into the fold. Rising through the ranks, he moves from Virginia to Switzerland, Japan and Hawaii, accompanied by his long-suffering girlfriend Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), who isn't allowed to know what he does for a living. Over the years, his faith in America's government is shaken as he discovers the scale of its data-gathering operation, collecting all telephone and internet information on every person on earth, whether or not they're a suspect. And he believes that the taxpayers have a right to know what their elected officials are doing.
The script tells the story as Ed describes his life to filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and two Guardian journalists (Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson) while hiding in a Hong Kong hotel, an event recounted in the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. Eventually, this element of the story generates some proper action as the CIA tracks him down and gives chase. Stone orchestrates these scenes expertly, generating some real adrenaline without sacrificing the bigger narrative. And Gordon-Levitt is simply remarkable, vanishing into the role so effectively that the final dissolve to the real Snowden is barely perceptible. His chemistry with Woodley is complex and engaging (even with a gratuitous sex scene), creating a terrific central love story to guide the audience through the events.
Continue reading: Snowden Review
But with an eclectic cast that includes John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, and Mickey Rourke, Spun is more about exuberant editing providing a humorous glimpse into a small, bored, drug community than a focus on any particular acting or writing talent. Once the pizzazz of quick cuts and graphic novel touches has washed over the normal tell-tale signs of substance abuse by all the characters, you're left with another drug movie that feels as if it's trying too hard to be Trainspotting, without the spiffy production design.
Continue reading: Spun Review
A slam-dunk natural subject for Clark, Bully follows the based-on-reality story of Marty Puccio (Brad Renfro), who along with his girlfriend Lisa (Rachel Miner) decides to brutally slay his "best friend" Bobby (Nick Stahl) as payback for a lifetime of abuse. Set in the ultra-trashy nether regions of southern Florida -- and I mean seriously, beyond-WWF trashy -- there's little to do but drive your car, play video games, have sex, and beat the crap out of your friends.
Continue reading: Bully Review
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