Citizenfour Blu-ray Review
My grandfather used to always tell me, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” And I guess that makes sense if, like me, you like to eat bacon but aren’t really interested on how that tasty piggy got on your plate. We’ve all be asked to “keep a secret” because the person telling us thinks if the truth comes out that it will hurt someone or something. In a way, the United States government is like that. They do things we probably wouldn’t like to know about, and don’t tell their citizens because the knowledge may hurt. But sometimes grandpa, your friend and the government are wrong. Enter Citizenfour.
The story of one of the largest releases of government information, CITIZENFOUR tells the tale of Edward Snowden, a former employee of the National Security Agency, who felt that America was not doing right by the various laws and regulations put into effect after the tragedies of September 11, 2001. It was following the attacks on New York City, Washington D.C. and the crash of a plane in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that laws were passed giving the United States government almost carte’ blanche when it came to surveying it’s citizens. Snowden discovered, in his work at the NSA, that often time’s data was being compiled illegally, not only in America but in other countries.
Director Poitras was well known to Snowden for some of her early documentary work, and it is through Snowden’s correspondences with reporter Glenn Greenwald that the film begins. Greenwald wrote about the things Snowden disclosed in the Guardian US, his work eventually winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. As we follow the story, we learn what avenues everyone involved had to follow to get the word out. Hundreds of encrypted emails were exchanged, many of them just simple notes, in order to ensure their interactions were indeed private. Because of his known support of Poitras, and with rumors beginning about him being in contact with Snowden, Greenwald is often halted at airports when he intends to fly, detained for up to 15 hours, then released with no explanations.
As the story progresses, and we finally meet Edward Snowden, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. He does come across a bit smug at times, but the man has literally risked his life to do what he thinks is right. It is while he is at the Moscow airport that the US cancels his passport, making him, literally, a man without a country. It almost reads like a chapter in a John LeCarre novel. The film doesn’t preach. It allows you, the viewer, to decide for yourself how much is enough. The easy thing to say is that, if you’re not doing or saying anything bad, why do you care whose watching your movements on GPS or listening in to your cell phone conversations. But does anyone really feel that way? Deep down, I don’t. And I’m pretty sure you don’t either. Watch CITIZENFOUR and then ask yourself again.
Video: Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the film is sharp and clear. Even the computer images of encrypted email jump off the screen.
Audio: The soundtrack is delivered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is delivered clearly, though sometimes the recorded phone conversations need to have the volume turned up.
Deleted Scenes: Methods Can’t Be Questioned (7:47), The Strength of Your Beliefs (2:37), and A Scandal Is What It Is (3:30). Informative but repetitive.
The New York Times Talks with Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and David Carr (1:00:03): A well put-together sit-down with the featured members of the film discussing everything from how the project began to their fears in going public.
Film Society of Lincoln Center Q&A with Laura Poitras and Dennis Lim (28:22): The film’s director talks about the making of the film and the effect it has had on both her life and Snowdens.
“The Program” – A New York Times Op-Doc by Laura Poitras (8:35): A mini-doc dealing with government spying.