Oliver Stone serves up a sort of companion piece to Laura Poitras’s excellent documentary Citizenfour, which records whistleblower Edward Snowden’s hidden vigil in a Hong Kong hotel as his exposure of secret and illegal U.S. government surveillance becomes headline news. But it isn’t much of a companion: where the documentary revealed an intelligent, principled man who reasoned himself into exile, Stone can offer only a smart, patriotic conservative (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who gradually comes’ round to the more liberal mindset of his frustrated but supremely devoted girlfriend (Shailene Woodley). So, yes, we get more of the man Snowden’s life and times, but weirdly, less of the man himself. 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 — in particular, a conversation between Snowden and his mentor, with the latter’s beamed-in image covering an entire wall — but there’s a slickness, and also a slackness, to the proceedings. Still, if it makes people check out the documentary, so much the better. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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