Stone collects all of the silliest clich�s about computing in a grab-bag aesthetic that tries every kind of pointlessly filtered or grainy look, but can't seem to fake a convincing webcam shot.
Stone's flashy filmmaking, including grand set pieces in enormous secret facilities, can't conceal his flat, thin, psychology-free depiction of a modest and self-sacrificing hero who single-handedly changed the politics of our time.
As Snowden, Gordon-Levitt is so muted, so cloistered, that it can be easy to miss that it's a very good performance.
It's a fawning piece of work.
Stone is so intent on making Snowden an icon that he scrubs him of his nuances, his individuality.
If Snowden's story wasn't real, Stone would have made it up. So why does Stone's movie feel so toothless?
Stone still evinces his old, hand-rubbing glee in exposing the vermin hiding under the rock marked National Security, and there are some fine scenes... but there's a slickness, and also a slackness, to the proceedings.
Snowden could have been an important film. It certainly contains important elements. Sadly, unlike its subject, it's unremarkable and easily forgotten.
While the drama here is straight forward and conventional, Stone turns a brilliant trick by visually showing how computer spying is conducted. We do not have to understand how it works to appreciate what it does -- because Stone skillfully shows us.