Snowden, A Film About Spying Over the Internet

Tension, suspense and reflection. These are the main ingredients of this movie. It raises questions regarding people's privacy. Furthermore, it addresses the issue of the control that certain powers may have over us of which we may be completely unaware.
Snowden, A Film About Spying Over the Internet

Last update: 18 November, 2021

Movies that capture the viewer’s attention and gradually complicate the plot with suspense and emotion generate intrigue. This is especially the case with those that have a realistic feel and whose stories could well occur in the real world. One such film is  Snowden. It focuses on the topic of spying over the internet and how this happens in real life.

On more than one occasion, this movie makes us wonder if government institutions actually do monitor our phones and computers. It certainly seems that there’s a good possibility that our privacy has been lost and everything can now be viewed on the internet. On the plus side, it’s a way of maintaining worldwide connections. However, what if it’s used for investigative and surveillance purposes? Let’s take a look at how this subject is portrayed in the film.

Context and brief synopsis of Snowden

Director, Oliver Stone, has dared to tell the story of Edward Snowden. He’s an American technology consultant who worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). The story is based primarily on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

The protagonist, Edward Snowden, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, abandons his military career to join the CIA. There, he demonstrates his computer skills and gains access to the secret global surveillance program of the National Security Agency.

Snowden claims that there’s a worldwide spy network of billions of people. Documents are leaked to the press, starting off a chain of events involving the young analyst. Furthermore, it depicts the entire control and surveillance process of the United States government.

“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

-Edward Snowden-

A scene from Snowden.

Three keys to understanding the movie

Edward Snowden didn’t want to live in a world where everything is recorded. However, he was able to directly verify that everyone is permanently being watched.

E-mails, phone calls, social networks, mobile messaging, etc., everything is under state control, which the protagonist speaks out about. Let’s see what the keys to the movie are:

  • It’s classified within the thriller genre. Therefore, the plot gradually increases in tension and intrigue. In fact, the whole way through, we sense the huge challenge of confronting an entire state over a leak of information. A leak that, broadly speaking, could uncover a scandal with worldwide repercussions.
  • The movie attempts to project a realistic look at American society. At the same time, it seeks to produce a social impact, making the viewer reflect on the need to defend our right to privacy.
  • The purpose of the movie is to warn us to be cautious and critical of technology. According to Gabriel Moses, a personal reflection and a conscious decision about the duality of public and private information is necessary.

Indeed, we’re continuously using technology and computers to transmit photos and personal experiences, and we never know where they might end up.

A bunch of cell phones on a table.

Snowden, hero or criminal?

What perspective does the movie show? Well, the protagonist is portrayed as both principled and brave. He criticizes the fact that the continuous espionage on the population is, basically, an attack against the privacy of the people. Everything that’s said and done is stored on the internet, hence people lose their privacy.

The United States government considers his actions as treason. However, socially he can be seen as a hero who tries to show the world something that was completely hidden.

Right from the start, this is an attention-grabbing thriller. However, it also makes us look at our mobile phone and computer with some concern and ask, are they really controlling us? This question is what the director wants us to ask, at the same time increasing our awareness of this issue.

In short, this is a movie with a continually unfolding story that increases in tension as the film progresses. Furthermore, it deals with a  subject that makes us feel defenseless in the face of a state power that basically has control over the whole of society.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cerrillo i Martínez, Agustí (2009). Privacidad y redes sociales. IDP. Revista de Internet, Derecho y Política, (9), 1-3. [Fecha de Consulta 12 de Noviembre de 2021]. ISSN:. Disponible en:
  • Fayos Gardó, A. (Coord.) et al. (2015). Los derechos a la intimidad y a la privacidad en el siglo XXI. Dykinson. Madrid.
  • Moser, G. (2014). Psicología ambiental: Aspectos de las relaciones individuo-medioambiente. ECOE. Bogotá.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.