Snowden: Whistleblower or Hero?

By Brianna Naderpour and Elizabeth Carres
SEPT 30, 2016

Director Oliver Stone

Director Oliver Stone

The newest thriller of the Fall season, Snowden, was released on September 16, 2016. According to imdb.com , this film is based on the true story of an American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden. He was a National Security Agency (NSA) employee who exposed information about covert surveillance to the press. The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden, along with major celebrities Shailene Woodley, Scott Eastwood, Melissa Leo, and Zachary Quinto.

Actor Joseph Gordon- Levitt

Actor Joseph Gordon- Levitt

The editors at biography.com noted that Oliver Stone’s reputation for taking on controversial projects makes him the ideal director for this movie. Stephen Galloway of hollywoodreporter.com said that on multiple occasions Stone met with Snowden in Moscow, where he lives in exile. Stone thoroughly researched the events that lead up to Snowden’s decision to expose government intel.

Stephen Galloway’s article also mentioned that Oliver Stone was unable to receive backing for this film from American companies. In Stone’s words, “We moved to Germany, because we did not feel comfortable in the U.S. We felt like we were at risk here. We didn’t know what the NSA might do, so we ended up in Munich, which was a beautiful experience.” The movie was eventually financed by companies in France and Germany.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

In this film, Stone paints Snowden as an American hero. However, in an episode of Weekend Edition Saturday, npr.org reported that the House Intelligence Committee concluded a two year investigation on Snowden. The unclassified report describes Snowden as “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” who “caused tremendous damage to national security.”  Former NSA Deputy Director, Chris Inglis, said, “The [movie] story that was told was a gross mischaracterization of what NSA‘s purposes are. And a gross exaggeration of Edward Snowden’s own particular role in that. To the point where you could come away from looking at that movie, saying why are 50,000 people at the NSA dead wrong? And one is absolutely correct?” Although the movie is not a documentary, it claims to be a story based on actual events, which prompted Inglis to state that,“Dramatization to me means you add the occasional exclamation point. You bring in a musician to perhaps add some background music. But you don’t tell a story that is fiction.”

According to Nathan Gardels and Alex Gardels of the huffingtonpost.com, Snowden would like to return to the United States one day if there was a possibility that he would be pardoned. The movie definitely sheds new light on the Snowden scandal and rekindles the debate about his intentions. As the trailer on snowdenfilm.com boldly states, “You don’t have to pick a side, but you will.