Oliver Stone is notorious for his button-pushing depictions of U.S. history, and this Christmas will see the W. director add another incendiary chapter to his filmography in Snowden, a biopic about the “most wanted man in the world.”
Shot in May and quickly edited as to get into the awards race this year, Snowden looks at the unusual life of former CIA employee and government contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked information from the National Security Agency (NSA) that uncovered invasive and unconstitutional global surveillance programs carried out in conjunction with telecommunications companies and European governments. The revelations led to a global outcry and Snowden being branded a traitor, forcing him to flee the United States for Russia.
The story of his whistleblowing was the subject of Laura Poitras’ instantly iconic documentary Citizenfour, which is a must-watch for any self-respected U.S. citizen. What Stone has to add is still unclear, but the politically active filmmaker’s perspective will certainly be interesting to see.
The first teaser for Snowden is haunting but really just an announcement, showing no footage from the actual movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the titular whistleblower, with Shailene Woodley playing his girlfriend and Nicolas Cage playing a former U.S. intelligence official. The star-studded cast also boasts Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto, Joely Richardson, Scott Eastwood and Timothy Olyphant.
Stone’s biggest threat in releasing Snowden, however, might not be political blowback so much as box office competition. By opening the movie at Christmas, Stone is putting a lot of faith of moviegoers to prioritize a topical biopic over other popular fare like Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Will Smith football drama Concussion, David O. Russell-directed Joy Mangano biopic Joy, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s period pic The Revenant, mainstream comedy Daddy’s Home, kiddie sequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (opening the 23rd) and Warner Bros.’ Point Break remake. All this, and a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening a week earlier.