Citizenfour (2014)

There are few times where you can actually watch history in the making - not as it is presented to you, but as it is - in the raw. The closest I'd come was seeing Reagan shot of TV or maybe even just seeing that picture of Obama and his staff as Bin Laden was being hunted down. There is a certain power that comes with the feeling of being inside the inner circle when something happens that has a profound effect on the world around us.

This movie is little more than strung together behind the scene clips of Edward Snowden giving his stolen NSA information to Glen Greenwald and several other reporters. As a movie, then, it doesn't really tell much of a story, but it definitely stirs feelings in the audience. Some people think he's a terrorist, some a traitor, some a hero, and everyone seems to have an opinion. In this movie, he's brought to you in the form of some guy who's good with computers. He's been working for secretive agencies for a while, and he has decided to take the law into his own hands to expose what he perceives as the abuse of power by the people who have been trusted with protecting his country. He sees himself as a patriot, but his motivation is only part of the story.

If the goal of this movie was to humanize him, I'd say that it succeeded. Sometimes you hate people, and there are a lot of people who will see him in all of his humanity and hate him. He somehow manages to be the focal point of the movie, but the feeling of being inside this historic event is more overwhelming. The flashes to the TV and the breaking news that Snowden himself was responsible for is interspersed with him putting in hair gel and deciding if an umbrella will make him blend in better. Mind you, he's in Hong Kong, and he's 5'11". That may be normal height in America, but he's going to stick out a bit there.

His well-founded paranoia intrudes on several occasions, and it puts a point on the kind of details that he has had to deal with in order to get this far. His deriding remarks about an SD card that has been left accidentally in a laptop and his comments on the remote activation of IP phones shows not just that he feels like someone is out to get him, but that he has experience with the technology involved in actually getting someone like this.

All told, this is a fascinating look through the window of history as it is being made. It's cut down for time and content, but they concentrated well enough to leave in interesting bits and even the important moments between big revelations. It's got to be hard to pace a documentary like this, and I'd have to say that they did it well. Is he a hero? A villain? He's just some nerd, and he changed the world for better or for worse.

Direction was good
Story was compelling
Camerawork was mostly good
Editing was very good

Bottom Line: It's a tale told by reporters, full of a little sound and not much fury, signifying everything.



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