Edward Snowden is either a hero or a traitor, depending on how you saw the National Security Agency leaks that began in 2013, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s voice in the new movie trailer about the whistleblower’s life is creating a whole new set of divisions.
From the trailer for Oliver Stone’s new movie, it’s abundantly clear how the director feels about Edward just from viewing a few minutes of its salient clips. Snowden, played by Joseph, has been truly transformed into a stock thriller character.
Of course, it’s hard to say from this short clip just how Edward will fare in the final cut of the film. What the public is treated to — a term used liberally here — is Gordon-Levitt’s deeper-than-usual vocal affectation, a choice that grates heavily on the ears by the end of the two-minute trailer. In a two-hour film, that Snowden voice might just be a deal-breaker.
In fact, Joseph’s voice was so distracting that it dominated much of the response to the Edward movie preview on social media. Some described his best Snowden impression as “unbelievable,” while others went straight for “awful.”
— Danny Yadron (@dannyyadron) April 27, 2016
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden voice sounds like Ashton Kutcher doing a Keanu impression. https://t.co/uVFNwYCScG
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) April 27, 2016
Interesting choice for Joseph Gordon-Levitt to use Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill voice for Edward Snowden. https://t.co/h3jf1vyeYQ
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) April 27, 2016
Can anyone explain the weird voice choice JGL made in the snowden movie? Because I don’t know if I can take it seriously…
— Juliet Franklin (@coconewt) April 27, 2016
Not everyone was quite so eager to hang Gordon-Levitt out to dry for his vocal interpretation of Edward. After all, others argued that Snowden does kind of talk like that in the Oscar-winning documentary about the NSA leaks, Citizenfour.
New Snowden trailer – nailed the voice. Rest seems excessive Hollywood for people who won’t watch Citizenfour. What’s up with those people?
— MG (@_MG_) April 27, 2016
Of course, Joseph’s voice for Edward isn’t just based on his own conceptions of the whistleblower. Gordon-Levitt actually met with Snowden in Russia — where he says the former NSA employee does not want to be “at all.” While he doesn’t seek to change anyone’s views, the actor says that their secret face-to-face meeting affirmed his support for Edward, even if he came there with purely professional reasons in mind, he told the Guardian last September.
“I left knowing without a doubt that what [Snowden] did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do, that he believed it would help the country he loves. Now, as he would say, it’s not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That’s really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don’t want to be the actor guy who’s like, ‘You should listen to me! What he did was right!’ I don’t think that’s my place. Even though that is what I believe – that what he did was right.”
Apart from Joseph’s divisive voice choice, director Oliver Stone also spoke closely with Edward in preparation for the film. Stone is no stranger to controversial political positions — his film, JFK, which alleges mass conspiracy in the assassination of Kennedy, is still brought up by conspiracy theorists.
What do you think Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s voice in the Edward Snowden movie preview?
[Photo by John Sciulli/Handout/Getty Images]