The worlds most famous Edward (apart from Edward Norton) has his story told from the real inside.
Edward Snowden is a polarizing figure and his actions and effects are not up for debate in this review. What i seek to analyse here is the story being told in the film and the style in which it is displayed, leading to its quality as consumable content. Did i enjoy the film? No. Did I learn and appreciate the film? Yes.
Dealing with one of the biggest political and social events in the last decade, Citizenfour is a truly eye-opening look behind the scenes on a leak that halted government temporarily and flared a discussion that has changed the way we act as a society and consume technology. Co-ordinated by Laura Poitras, Citizenfour gives us the whole story behind the reporting, we are given the humanity. We are given some background and context to NSA surveillance in the opening of the film before we open up on Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald discussing the release of information in a Hong Kong hotel. From there we hold with Snowden and Greenwald as the story unfolds.
We are shown the story with very little editing, long shots with no voice overs. We see and hear fire alarms going off in the hotel, we see the rituals Snowden goes through in preparing for his days in confinement, we see everything we need to see to understand Snowden as a person rather than a personality. We are told the narrative of proceedings through black screen script and in newsreel footage, never from Snowden or the filmmakers mouths. This helps to validate much of the information, instead of being presented opinion we are presented with truth. Tension is built despite the knowledge of the current situation, we see the US government coming for Snowden and the extreme stress this puts on a man who throughout remains supremely calm. The footage is entirely open, we aren’t lead through flashy editing or dozens of talking heads, we get the raw story of a few people at a point in time.
Citizenfour is an important film and a comprehensive document of the events behind the story. A film that talks about the events but lets you make up your own mind about the politics of the topic. As Snowden’s story is turned into a biographical film they will continue to find a wider audience and the history may become trivialised, so it is important to have a documentary here as an honest reference point for people to look at.