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Snowden’s entire story, Bridget Jones’s latest chapter and The Beatles’ tales of touring

Also the Blair Witch, as filmed in our own woods, and two Buddhist films from China

 

Only a few new ones this week but they include some good ones.

Here’s the list:

Snowden:  4 stars

Bridget Jones’s Baby: 3 ½

The Beatles: 8 Days a Week:  3

Blair Witch: 2 ½

Kaili Blues: --

Paths of the Soul: --

SNOWDEN: Three years ago he told the world about a widespread surveillance program run by the US government. Since then, Edward Snowden has become more than a whistleblower; he’s a folk hero. His name comes up regularly in spy thrillers as shorthand for a security risk. Citizenfour, the documentary in which he gave his information directly to a couple of reporters for the Guardian newspaper, won an Academy Award.  And Oliver Stone takes up the story here, using drama to tell us more. It’s his best film in years. At times it plays like a spy thriller itself.

 

We get Snowden’s biography (marines, CIA, NSA, Ayn Rand and Joseph Campbell fan) and watch him change as he sees warfare turning into a long-range video game and surveillance of ordinary people increasing (“Which people?” “The whole kingdom.”) An invention of his own is misused in that.  The script strikes a good balance. It’s detailed enough to sound authentic but not so much that it bores with technospeak. Joseph Gordon-Levitt succeeds with a tricky role. He brings life to Snowden, who is not one who shares personal feelings.

Stone helps too with recurring scenes of Snowden and his girlfriend. Shailene Woodley plays her very naturally although at times those scenes do feel like typical Hollywood fare of a woman’s unease about what her man is up to. What that is and how he came to do it is what makes this film work. A bit of trivia: the end credits say it’s based on a book by one of the Guardian reporters and another by a Russian author. He’s Snowden’s lawyer in Moscow who insisted Stone option his novel before he would help. And note how the final scene evolves: by the end that’s the real Snowden you see. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5    

BRIDGET JONES’S BABY: Very funny and a welcome re-visit with London’s most beloved single woman. She originated in a newspaper column and has already been portrayed in two hit movies by Renée Zellweger. It’s now about 10 years since then and Zellweger looks much like she used to. Bridget is no longer with Darcy (Colin Firth) and her other beau (Hugh Grant) is lost in a jungle somewhere. There’s a funeral for him early in the film. Bridget is applying herself to her TV producer job but that loneliness that so resonates with her fans is also there.

 

Enter two men. Darcy is back and soon to divorce his wife. And at a music festival Bridget is charmed by an American (Patrick Dempsey) who writes books about love, which he analyses with algorithms. She sleeps with both and soon finds she’s pregnant. But by who? She doesn’t want to tell either about the other and doesn’t want to take a test. That dilemma is stretched out nicely in scenes rich with humor thanks to Emma Thomson who was brought in to help with the writing. She also pays the doctor and her reactions to the various twists in the odd situation are droll and priceless.

 

Bridget meanwhile is also dealing with change at work where a new, hip young boss is turning down the news content on her show and upping human interest and celebrity stories. And as her pregnancy progresses, her mother is running in a local election on a family values ticket (“Saving our Society from Rack and Ruin”). Sometimes this clash of plotlines feels obvious, like an extended sit-com. But there are clever things inside it. The film is light but also good, breezy entertainment. (5th Avenue, International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5   

More in New Movies

Widows of criminals doing it for themselves, the seed of modern politics and the perils of war reporting

Also an ingenious take on the migrant crisis, and a second appreciation this year of Ingmar Bergman that adds to what we already know from the first

Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life
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