There was nothing unusual as we climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor apartment. The darkly polished wooden door creaked open into a shadowless stillness. As I entered the apartment a flash of light burst open into the room and a thunderous chorus of people shouted out “surprise!” My friends had gathered to surprise me for my birthday. Not only was I shocked but I was stunned they were able to keep everything so secret from me. Usually I am quick to notice any subtle changes in a person’s expressions or feelings while talking to them. One of the most fun aspects of the party was listening to my friends reveal all of the clandestine maneuvers they did to avoid tipping me off. In fact, they presented me with a small photo album that had pictures of me that they were taking in secret at various places. I thought I had arranged to be at each location; but instead they had cleverly made it appear I was choosing the locale and had someone secretly stationed there to take my picture. It was an awesome evening as I listened to everyone’s experiences; I loved hearing all the backstories to the different events. GROUNDWORK had to be carefully laid out if the startling discovery would properly make the news. From director Laura Poitras (The Oath, Flag Wars), this film festival nominated documentary revealed the planning and logistics behind Edward Snowden’s release of secret documents that showed the extent of the US government’s involvement regarding internet spying. Before I review this movie I want to state that my review is based on this film’s entertainment value. I do not wish to get into a political debate of right or wrong, simply share what I felt as I watched this documentary. This film played out like a thriller due to the director keeping a faster clip with her scenes. I was fascinated watching the behind the scenes events coming to light from the news reports that had come out to the media. There were only a few spots that slowed the story down for me. Writer and columnist Glenn Greenwald from The Guardian newspaper was the most compelling player in this film. I would have appreciated more backstory on him alone. The scenes of Edward Snowden looked genuine to me, not just being set up to make a good story for the viewers. I have to assume people watching this documentary would be familiar with the story or at least the fallout from it; however, if someone is not aware of this noteworthy event I am not sure they would find this film as fascinating to watch as I did.
3 1/4 stars
With a single word or phrase a story can take on a different meaning. The same holds true for a newscast or written article. When I watch or read the news I know I am getting a fragment of the whole story. It is understandable due to time constraints or limited space. Being a naturally curious person, I enjoy finding out the backstory to what was reported to the public. It could be almost anything from entertainment to science to government; hearing the details on an individual’s thought process behind what they did or created is something that has always fascinated me. In regards to this movie, I was looking forward to discovering something new on the how and why Julian Assange created the site WikiLeaks. As some of you already know, I am not here to judge if something is right or wrong, legal or not, ethical, etc.; I am reviewing the movie on its entertainment value. Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek into Darkness) played the role of Julian. Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Winning Streak) played Julian’s collaborator Daniel Domscheit-Berg. Both actors did the best they could with what was given to them. For a movie that claimed it was a dramatic thriller based on real events, the script was a real mess. I was bored through a major portion, finally becoming engaged in the last third of the film. It really was a shame considering the cast also included Laura Linney (Mystic River, Hyde Park on Hudson) as Sarah Shaw and Stanley Tucci (Margin Call, The Terminal) as James Boswell. All of them were good but the way the story played out with short scenes that did not go anywhere; there was not a cohesive trail to follow. With all the controversy regarding WikiLeaks and the way it received anonymous covert data; I wished the writers would, if not enhanced, at least have allowed more time to look at an event from multiple points of view. I did not gain anything new regarding Julian, the site and more importantly I was not entertained. A story so current needed an exciting script and offer something extra to grab the attention of the viewer. If not then one should just watch the news.
1 3/4 stars