There are, at least, two movies in 'Citizenfour', so allow me to divide the review in two parts.
Part 1. 'Citizenfour' is a thriller. A thriller about espionage. But you won't see George Clooney selling you coffee, or Brad Pitt playing with his sunglasses in slow motion, or CSI's Miami ridiculously photoshopped settings. It's a real life one. It happens in laptops, at several homes, and in hotel rooms where conversation happens. Don't look for car chasings, explosions or heroic cops/detectives. We could even agree there's few action, and the documentary is slow-paced and complex, something that you might find that disappointing or too much for your taste. That's sad. Because it's hard for me to think on movies that can compare to 'Citizenfour' in what regards to tension. The tension of seeing a movie director, Laura Poitras, a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, and a computer professional (a high-level analyst) Edward Snowden, risking their lives because of planning to meet in secrecy, then gathering in Hong-Kong to unveil the latest only weapon: information. Real, deeply disturbing, meaningful information, proving how the American National Security Agency (NSA) is invading your privacy. Indiscriminately, Illegally. Unacceptably. Shamefully. And when I say you, I mean everyone. You might prefer to keep checking your mobile. That's very sad too. This thriller makes 99% of thrillers look irrelevant and dumb. Here's reality, unfolding by the minute offered to any viewer willing to see thanks to a brave filmmaker. Here are real, working-class heroes exposing themselves in the search and defense of truth. A truth that is hidden by the most powerful government on the planet (but make no mistake, despite the US government is the one primarily pointed out, any Western government is equally responsible, or at least accomplice). A truth that should embarrass the government of any nation self-defined as a democracy. A digital David against an army of Goliaths. A flesh and bones starring role, scared, fragile (you can see the fear, the uncertainty in his face, his body language, it's gripping, compelling and disturbing at the same time) but determined to sacrifice his life to reveal a scandal that is silenced with just one word: terrorism. That's a real hero in my book. Move to part 2.
Part 2. If as a movie 'Citizenfour' is a fascinating miracle, a movie done 'undergound', the importance o what it tells us is even more striking. The movie begins with director Poitras already working on a film about surveillance in the US, a country unconsciously (I hope) sacrificing their liberties in the name of security, in the name of the war of terror after 9/11. What Poitras show us is appalling and disturbing well even before Snowden reaches her. Same can be said about Glenn Greenwald's work too, as he is the other one in front of the camera, creating journalistic pieces explaining the whole issue, being invited to talk in front of selected audiences on the crucial revelations. He has one blatant scene in Rio de Janeiro when he just says that this is not about security or terrorism but to gather as much information about economy, privileged information for corporations, so the US economic machinery is still on top. Funny when liberals and capitalism defenders say they are against regulations but use the government to control you, don't you think? Funny when a nation forces other country to sit on a negotiation table on behalf of international agreements/law but at the same time mocks any of these more basic principles going beyond its borders in its demented espionage paranoia, don't you coincide?. Funny when a president uses Malcolm Luther King's words about freedom and equality but he's eroding civil liberties inside and outside the borders of the nation he governs, don't you agree?
The amount of lies & liars documented on “Citizenfour' is depressing. But for me, it's even more dispiriting to have the feeling, as a puzzling open debate within the EU wisely points out, a vast majority of citizens in the Western World has given up. Are we really ok with the idea of being permanently watched, monitored, controlled? Do we love our digital devices so much that are more important than our privacy? Are we ready to say bye to our democratic system and became politically-correct dictatorhips regimes? Have we been asked about it? I haven't. And I still want my rights. Don't you? A good starting point to react and do something might be watching this film. Thanks Poitras, Greenwald and, of course, Citizenfour.