While Snowden, of course, inspired the film, it is specifically based on his story as detailed in two novels, Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files and Anatoly Kucherena’s Time of the Octopus. (Kucherena, incidentally, is Snowden’s Russian lawyer.) Key aspects of the former NSA contractor are seen in the trailer, starting with his military service.
Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is shown as a rising star in U.S. intelligence, eager to join the CIA to “help [his] country make a difference in the world.” As we all know by now, he ends up getting a top-secret job with the National Security Agency, and this is where the tension is ratcheted up by about 500 percent. In his new role, Snowden discovers that the government can see a host of things that everyday people don’t make public — “emails, chats, SMS, whatever,” he’s told.
There’s plenty of suspense in the preview; in fact, it’s very reminiscent of a Jason Bourne movie, minus the fight scenes. “They’re going to come for me,” says Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden at one point, in between ominous phone rings. “They’re going to come for all of you too.”
The trailer’s timing couldn’t have been better. It comes less than a week after a federal judge criticized particular FBI and NSA surveillance activities. Snowden may add fuel to an already combustible conversation, especially given how clearly it illustrates the kind of private data being collected from ordinary people.
The real Snowden acknowledged the trailer today, tweeting (probably accurately) that there was a halt in work at the NSA today for two minutes and 39 seconds — the length of the preview.
For two minutes and thirty nine seconds, everybody at NSA just stopped working. https://t.co/OLjCV6wkGp
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 27, 2016
Snowden also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Nicholas Cage, and more. The film opens in theaters on September 16.