Citizenfour

December 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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Though I had initially planned on skipping this film, I ended up seeing it because it showed up on 3 Best of the Year lists. I decided to see what the fuss was about. This documentary covers the very earliest days of the NSA leaks. Filmed by reporter, Laura Poitras, as it was happening, the movie spends most of it’s time in Edward Snowden’s hotel room in Hong Kong as he is interviewed by Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. We witness his (and their) real time reactions to various events as they unfold, right up to about 6 months ago. That insider look is vaguely interesting and, really, only vaguely. Snowden comes across as a pensive, brave, slightly nerdy man with deeply held convictions. Though he insists that he distrusts the cult of personality in the media and does not want the story to become about him, it seems to be exactly what this film is trying to do. We like Ed Snowden and we want you to like Ed Snowden. Okay, I admit it.  I do like Ed Snowden. But that is neither here nor there to what he has revealed about our government’s deep reaches into everyone’s private life everywhere. This is disturbing stuff that remains too abstract in this movie. The facts are mentioned but only incidentally as the story unfolds around us. At one point, Greenwald mentions how complext it all is but then nothing is done to make it any simpler for the audience. Beyond some ominous scraps of paper with the word “POTUS” written on them, the film does little to really help us understand the depth and breadth and implications of what the US government is now engaged in. I feel like an opportunity was missed here. This movie is likely to get an Oscar nomination for best documentary. Many more people are going to see it. Unfortunately, they will leave the theater liking Snowden but not really understanding what he sacrificed so much to reveal.

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