8.1/10
50,158
113 user 210 critic

Citizenfour (2014)

Trailer
1:26 | Trailer
A documentarian and a reporter travel to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden.

Director:

Laura Poitras
Won 1 Oscar. Another 43 wins & 36 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Snowden ... Self
Glenn Greenwald ... Self
William Binney ... Self
Jacob Appelbaum ... Self
Ewen MacAskill ... Self
Jeremy Scahill ... Self
M. Margaret McKeown M. Margaret McKeown ... Self - Judge
Kevin Bankston Kevin Bankston ... Self - attorney representing Carolyn Jewel
Harry Pregerson Harry Pregerson ... Self - Judge
H. Thomas Byron H. Thomas Byron ... Self - Government Representative
Michael Daly Hawkins Michael Daly Hawkins ... Self - Judge
Jonathan Man Jonathan Man ... Self - Human Rights Lawyer
Robert Tibbo Robert Tibbo ... Self - Human Rights Lawyer (voice)
José Casado José Casado ... Self
Roberto Kaz Roberto Kaz ... Self (as Robert Kaz)
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Storyline

In January 2013, Laura Poitras started receiving anonymous encrypted e-mails from "CITIZENFOUR," who claimed to have evidence of illegal covert surveillance programs run by the NSA in collaboration with other intelligence agencies worldwide. Five months later, she and reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The resulting film is history unfolding before our eyes. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Witness the event that changed history: The Edward Snowden revelations.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Laura Poitras took many security precautions related to the film, described by military writer Peter Maass among others. She moved to Berlin, Germany after being detained repeatedly at border controls when entering the US. She edited the film in Germany after flying directly there from Hong Kong with the Snowden footage, to prevent the FBI from showing up with a search warrant for her hard drives. All the film footage is kept on encrypted drives with multiple levels of nested protection. The computer she uses for reading sensitive documents is separated from the internet by an air gap. See more »

Goofs

One of the last title cards reads: "Edward Snowden's longtime partner, Lindsay Mills moves to Moscow to be with him", Snowden has stated in many interviews that Lindsay was his girlfriend not life partner. Now they are married. See more »

Quotes

TITLE CARD]: An international group of lawyers representing Snowden pro bono meets to discuss his legal status.
See more »

Connections

References Citizen Kane (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

Come & Get It
Performed by Selena Gomez
Written by Ester Dean, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen
See more »

User Reviews

 
After seeing "Citizenfour", you will have to remind yourself that this was not a work of fiction.
9 December 2014 | by texsheltersSee all my reviews

Citizenfour Scores a 10

If you never want to see a bad film in the theater again, I suggest you limit your viewing to documentaries. They are far better on average than fictional fare. Case in point: "Citizenfour."

"Citizenfour" tells the story of Edward Snowden's leak of NSA documents. Those documents reveal how our government, with the cooperation of major telecom and internet companies, has been surveilling our electronic communications. Moreover, our government has been spying on electronic communications around the world. You might ask, "Haven't they been doing this for years?" Yes, they have, but that was mainly (not exclusively, unfortunately) when there was probably cause, a warrant, or a history of criminal activity of the target. They have now been looking at everyone's communications without cause, and this can have a chilling effect on private communications and thought, journalism and our right to petition the government.

"Citizenfour" hits all the marks of a good documentary: it is topical, relevant, well organized and thought provoking. It is quietly dramatic and not overblown. In fact, the director could have manufactured more drama out of the subject through editing and dramatic music if desired. The restraint serves the film well.

Filmmaker Laura Poitras interviews Edward Snowden from the time he leaves his job at Booz Allen as an NSA analyst to leak the famous NSA documents that reports the spying programs up to the time his identity as the NSA whistle-blower is revealed. I thought I knew enough about this case, that there was no need to see this movie. I was wrong. Throughout the film, we see Snowden explain his decision making process, and what we see is revelatory. If people thought that Snowden was in it for fame or attention, watching this film will change that perception. Snowden was dismayed at the government surveillance of ordinary citizens and made a choice to leak that information. He did not name names and as far as he is concerned, did not reveal any information vital to U.S. security.

Heads of the NSA and other security agencies are shown in the film denying the existence of the surveillance program to Congress and on news programs. Other whistle-blowers or people investigating the program are interviewed or shown testifying such as former NSA intelligence agent William Binney. As the movie unfolds, so do the revelations of the extent of the spying program as it did in the London Guardian and other media outlets. First, U.S. domestic spying was revealed, then international spying, then spying on officials in other countries, even German Chancellor Merkel. Suffice to say, I knew some about the program but not the extent and the manner in which it unfolded.

What the film did was allow Snowden and Greenwald to take control of their own narrative, wrest it away from the mainstream media and government propaganda machine. Some of the shots in the movie start out of focus because Poitras started filming when something important was being said and to cut the takes for focus issues would have been unnecessary. Besides, the focusing was metaphorical of the main characters', Snowden and Greenwald, attempt to get a focus on the issues. We are brought along in this process. More effects and camera tricks could have been used to enhance the drama in the film, but the director wisely made a choice to focus on the content and characters. "Citizenfour", unlike all the overly dramatic movies from Hollywood, is a case of substance over style.

Rating: Pay Full Price, see it twice

There is little to complain about in the film other than I wanted more. The cinematography is not award winning, but it's exactly what the film needed. The timing in the film and editing were excellent. The director's choices were precisely what this story required.

Peace, Tex Shelters


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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA | Germany | UK

Language:

English | Portuguese | German

Release Date:

28 November 2014 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Citizenfour See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$126,321, 26 October 2014

Gross USA:

$2,800,870

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,780,692
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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