Last year, the National Security Agency and the Obama Administration was exposed for over-stepping the U.S. Constitution with allegations of spying on American citizens via Internet access, mobile data, text messages, and phone calls. It is believed that every U.S. citizen's data and information is being stored at some faceless mega-building somewhere in the United States. Former-NSA analysis administrator and whistleblower Edward Snowden was front-and-center with a series of online articles from the U.K. Guardian and the Washington Post. Snowden was everywhere during the summer of 2013 with the U.S. Government accusing the then-29-year-old man of treason and branded as a spy. Whether if you believe those allegations or not, Edward Snowden exposed the American Government for wrong-doing against its citizens and the world's population.
The new documentary Citizenfour follows the events leading up to the Snowden leaks and the aftermath created from exposing the Obama Administration's excessive use of the Patriot Act and abuse of power. Regardless of your personal politics, the film does a fine job documenting Snowden's state of mind and demeanor before and after the historical events in 2013. It's almost amazing watching the type of access director Laura Poitras and her crew have during this period, as Snowden exposes the depths of the American Government's control over its citizens.
The documentary itself has no flare, but rather presents the facts and information in very matter-of-fact and dry way. While this would be a big no-no with many other documentaries and films, Citizenfour's overall objective has plenty of drama and real-life espionage that will have audiences engaged in the well being of Americans everywhere. The lengths the government will do to keep America from experiencing another tragedy like 9/11 is absolutely scary and the speed at which technology races along with the population's willingness to be subjugated to "protect" freedom is equally scary and terrifying.
It's almost funny; I did think of Captain America: The Winter Soldier while I was watching Citizenfour, if only for the comic book version of real-life events. The word "Hydra" is also namedropped in the film, but not as the evil organization hell-bent on world domination, but rather the long-term effects that Edward Snowden hopes his actions will create. It's the idea that whatever happens to him, others will take over the greater cause of enacting government transparency and hold officials to higher standards than its populace. While Citizenfour is a far more Important film (yes, important with a capital "I") than Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's definitely not as entertaining or thrilling as the Marvel movie. Although its subject matter has a real-life effect on all Americans.
I can not stress enough how dry Citizenfour presents its events. It seems that the filmmakers could've taken the opportunity to educate the masses, as I do see the need NOT to spruce up the presentation. The events are far too important to apply a jazzy gloss, but it just feels that you can lead more people with honey than vinegar (and other clichés). It just seems that general audiences might dismiss the film, if only because it is so matter-of-fact.
The film also creates the idea of communicating with people the old-fashioned way; in person. While it builds paranoia in the viewer, its climax is an intense and gripping exchange between Edward Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald talking in a hotel room. Greenwald speaks to Snowden about his discoveries but uses a pad of paper and pen to communicate the important subjects and actions. It's almost a comical display to see two people talk and then break to write something down so no one in the room (or on a radio bug) can understand or know the exact details of their exchange. The reactions of their faces say it all and is one of the most visually impressive moments of the documentaryAt the end of the conversation, the paper is torn to pieces in a small pile on a coffee table. This leaves the audience to think, maybe they should burn those scraps of paper rather than simply throw them away in a wastepaper basket.
And that is the exact type of paranoia and nervous energy Citizenfour creates and how that's conveyed to an audience. It's truly one of the most gripping scenes in any movie of the year and worth watching for all Americans and world citizens.