HALT, dear reader. Do NOT even glance at the reviews of the new documentary Citizenfour!!! It is about Edward Snowden, including his personal life and motivations. Here’s the lowdown–
CITIZENFOUR: A SEMINAL DOCUMENTARY EVERY AMERICAN ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, REALLY, HONESTLY, TRULY MUST SEE. (I am NOT kidding.) (Well, maybe just a little.)
This is what the critics are telling us.
It opens today in NY and other cities and then more cities each week through 11/28. (Is there only one copy of this movie in existence?) Check here for the release dates. (It opens in Seattle 10/31.)
Plot: This movie is by Laura Poitras, who is the first person that Snowden contacted. Citizenfour is the name he uses in encrypted emails to Poitras. As explained by filmschoolrejects.com, the film follows Snowden as he shares what he knows with Poitras, [journalists] Greenwald and MacAskill, with the journalists feverishly working on their articles while Poitras both participates in and films the interactions. In fact, Poitras films as Snowden literally transfers the files to Greenwald and MacAskill. Along with what we already know, we learn new and unnerving info about American intelligence.
Here are reviews from three online movie sites:
Review by Alex Billington
Spoilers: None. Good work!
Bottom Line: It blew his mind, big time. The whole review is his raw, honest reaction to the movie. Here’s a sample:
Along comes a documentary that may change your life by showing humanity in its most honest form….The footage she shows, the story she tells, it’s as if they have captured lightning in a bottle.
More Dramatic Flourish: Citizenfour is like watching history unfold in front of your eyes, showing Snowden before and after he was revealed to the public as the whistleblower behind the NSA’s mass surveillance conspiracy. Except it’s not a conspiracy. It’s out there, it exists, it’s real.
This documentary captures what happens when one person tries to tell the world the truth.
(CUE ORCHESTRA, CUE CANONS: last movement of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture)
It reminds us that, while there are always untouchable political powers and bigger forces at play, all it takes is one person to change the world.
Histrionics Aside: doesn’t this movie sound great?
Review by Kirk Honeycutt
Spoilers: Chock full. If most of the movie is a conversation with Snowden in a hotel room, then give us a break and don’t tell us what happens outside of it. Give us something to discover for ourselves–the way the filmmaker means us to. (I am a broken record, a brilliant broken record. And not just because of the alliteration.)
Bottom Line: Boring in the middle, but still a must-see. It also lacks the pulse-pounding suspense or tension one normally associates with movies about espionage or whistleblowers, which might be because, Honeycutt explains, of Snowden’s calm demeanor.
Still, “Citizenfour” is that rare thing: a genuine film exposé without the P.T. Barnum bombast of Michael Moore or the winking bemusement of Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me).
Ugh Deluxe: If you’re telling us that the film lacks suspense, then I repeat: why kill what little suspense there is with spoilers? Honestly Honeycutt, don’t tell us any more info than we have to know, which, as far as I am concerned, is in the Plot above.
Interesting: Potras has been a target of that very surveillance, stopped at airports numerous times because of her films. (Poitras is now based in Berlin to keep U.S. scrutiny not to mention subpoena power at arm’s length.)
Review by Kate Erbland
Spoilers: A few that are unskimmable because they’re sprinkled throughout the review.
Bottom Line: B+. The movie leaves us with more questions than we had going in and it “drags” in the “second act.” But the intimacy and immediacy of the situations and experiences it does portray are compelling and satisfying enough to stick with viewers for long after the film has ended.
Interesting Dramatic Flourish: Citizenfour is the final entry in Poitras’ trilogy about post-9/11 America…and Poitras’ own experiences with government surveillance and watch lists make her as much a subject of the film as Snowden himself. In some ways, though, we are all the subject of Citizenfour.