This is by every standard a remarkable film – not because it tells us about the extensive surveillance of all but everybody, but because we get to meet an otherwise obscured person of such significance to today’s society and because the access and the tension are unsurpassed. Even if the whole film only consisted of the scenes in the Hong Kong hotel room where the director meets whistleblower Ed Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, it would still be a remarkable film. Come to think of it: It would be an even better film. And with THAT approach (and a small buildup to those hotel scenes) it would possibly have been one of the most thrilling documentary films with a capital F.
The filmmaker is enough of a filmmaker to acknowledge this but in my view also too much of an activist-journalist to completely trust us to gather info elsewhere on the subject matter. But we all have, haven’t we? And I don’t need it here. I want to be in that hotel room – I want to feel the natural excitement, the anxiety and the occasional relief.
Yes, the subject matter is of great importance, and too much awareness is not a bad thing. Only here I feel, that what we non-criminal regular-Joe-spectators need is to feel the power of the authorities – not to be told about it. I know I oversimplify things in the film a bit here, but the core of hotel scenes does it so splendidly. It’s a radical form of observational cinema which is really getting to you, and that’s the way I’d rather think about this film.
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USA, Germany, 114 mins.