|Scene from Snowden|
The last that we heard about director Oliver Stone's Snowden was that it got pulled from last Fall's release schedule in favor of an early 2016 one. Then, through some good signs, the film was moved yet again to Fall 2016. With many already anticipating the film's politically charged subject as being an Oscar contender, the first trailer hits with a certain anticipation. Can the director behind such provocative films as JFK and Born on the Fourth of July deliver a prescient tale of the downsides of NSA and American security? The answer isn't very clear still, but at least it looks like maybe it will be upbeat and fun. The first trailer looks to be very action oriented, so at very least this won't be the Snowden story that we're expecting, for better or worse.
There's a certain caution that I bring towards discussing Snowden. For starters, it has been delayed by almost a year. As an awards contender, this usually isn't a good sign. One can point to George Clooney's The Monuments Men from a few years back as a prestigious film that faded into obscurity by shifting by only a few months. It also doesn't help that Stone's more recent work doesn't come with the sting and power that his earlier work did. His most recent film, Savages, wasn't well received and showed the Mexican drug cartel story through a somewhat eccentric lens. From the looks of this first trailer, he looks to be going back into that direction. It also doesn't help that this is the second film in a row that sees Joseph Gordon Levitt playing a real life figure from a Best Documentary-winning film. Last year's The Walk was a take on Man on Wire. Snowden at the very least is about the man behind Citizenfour. Speaking as The Walk failed to get any traction, Snowden has an uphill battle to face.
Still, it is an election year and the potential for there to be films about American safety can strike the zeitgeist just right. One can only hope that this is the strategy that Stone and crew are betting on. There's a lot at stake here, and the trailer doesn't offer much proof that it will be a riveting drama about an important man. In fact, it looks more to be an action film about an important man. Whether or not this is just eccentricity applied to make the film look cooler than it is is up for debate. However, The Academy doesn't usually go for stuff like that, which already makes it a tough call, especially if Snowden is aesthetically the same as Savages.
Check out the trailer below:
It looks okay. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
CIA employee Edward Snowden leaks thousands of classified documents to the press.
One could easily nitpick at the small thing. For starters, many could argue that Levitt has another indecipherable accent. While I think it is fine, there's a lot about this that strikes me as a good movie, but maybe not a great Oscar candidate. As someone who does appreciate Stone's work when he makes a good movie, I want to believe that this will be a poignant drama about the complicated times. Still, in between the aggressive editing and a Nicolas Cage appearance, there isn't much to suggest prestige in this. Even the nonsensical teaser that came out a long, long time ago has more reverence for Snowden than this does. As a trailer selling a film, it has me a little worried, though I'm still not sure how much is just initial marketing.
Whether or not the film will be good, it's nice to know that things are moving forward with this film's release. After waiting for almost a year, I am glad to see that there's footage out there. Maybe it could be better. Maybe it is and we're just getting a bad first impression. However, I do believe that a man as passionately political as Stone will have something up his sleeve. Maybe it won't be his greatest achievement, but one can only hope that he does his subject justice and not just make it a silly espionage movie. It wouldn't be terrible, but I still like to think that this isn't Snowden admitting defeat in the Oscar run.