~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Starts Friday, November 28
Not Rated; 114 minutes
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (excerpted)
We're so used to being conned by everyone that a film purporting to tell it like it is, raises suspicions. Laura Poitras directs this potent and profound documentary that bears cinematic witness to history with the actual participants instead of the usual pontificating talking heads. Citizenfour is a wake-up call that hits you like a cold slap in the face.
The subject is former NSA intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who first made contact with Poitras under the codename "citizenfour." We see Snowden, then 29, meeting in 2013 with Poitras, journalist Glenn Greenwald and U.K. intelligence reporter Ewen MacAskill over eight days in a Hong Kong hotel room. Snowden, charged with violating the Espionage Act, owns up to his personal responsibility, and his fear and vulnerability are palpable. His argument, cogently expressed, is that the public has a moral right to the know the widespread extent to which the government, cloaked in the defense of monitoring global terrorism, is spying on its citizens, right down to each email and Google search.
The film escalates in tension as the journalists help Snowden disseminate his stolen data to the world. Citizenfour leaves you reeling. That's its intention. It's a wow of a thriller with a soul that isn't computer generated. Poitras may be guilty of taking Snowden at face value, but she succeeds brilliantly in evoking a shadow villain intent on world domination. Big Brother is back, baby, and he's gone digital.