So, this Eric Snowden guy…is he a hero? Villain? Little bit of each? It may be a conundrum for some…even considering that the film sets it up decidedly one way. Hey, I believe that most people who know me, and/or consistently read this blog, know my politics–I don’t exactly hide it. But I don’t want to go on a diatribe here. I will admit to something though, and if you’ve been around me long enough, you’ve heard this too. Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, Independent, moderate–it doesn’t change one thing. They’re ALL politicians. So, Mr. Snowden’s story is an important one, and the fact that it won last month’s Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, will bring it a little bit of a wider audience.

And what you’ll see and hear is mostly all Snowden. Interviewed extensively, casually attired in slacks, a t-shirt, and sporting bare feet, as he hides out in a hotel room in Hong Kong. Mr. Snowden has something to tell us–we are being watched. Our e-mails, what we search for on our computers, our phone calls–all in the name of national security. Is it a violation of our right to privacy? Or is it necessary for our safety? Should the U.S. government be labeling Snowden a traitor? Are the people on the right path if we call him a brave whistleblower. These are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself over the course of a dour, yet fascinating, 114 minutes.

There’s a fly-on-the-wall marvelous quality to this motion picture, as much of it is covertly filmed and recorded AS the news is breaking. Director Laura Poitras had the maddening task of pulling all this together through secretive filming and encrypted on-line communications. Glenn Greenwald does most of the interviewing of Eric, and we witness the detainment of Glenn’s partner at an airport, as the heat of the “authorities” locating Snowden, increases as this story progresses. IS Snowden a traitor? I’ve listened patiently to both sides of that argument. And while I’ve seen some incredible documentaries this past season, maybe this one affects us all the most personally. Compelling stuff here–and much left to ponder.

Grade:  A-


4 comments on “Citizenfour

  1. It certainly is compelling to watch and fascinating. Thanks for the great review.

    • Thanks for your comment and kudos! All three Oscar-nominated Documentary Features, that I’ve seen from this past contest, have been exceptional. Seek out “Virunga” and “Finding Vivian Maier” as well…reviews can be found right here on the blog. ML

  2. Good review Mark. As a character-study of Snowden, it works perfectly. But when it tries to be anything more, it doesn’t feel like it’s saying/doing anything at all new.

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