Citizenfour reveals and covers a subject Americans should and need to know about but I suspect many, a fair number in the millennial generation, might not take too seriously and maybe even assumes or accepts the government is spying on them. In any case, the subject matter is one thing, this documentary is another.
Anchor Bay | R – 113 min. – $26.99 | August 25, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
Synopsis: Citizenfour is a real life international thriller that unfolds by the minute. With unprecedented access, this behind-the-scenes chronicle follows award-winning director Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country) and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s remarkable encounters with whistleblower Edward Snowden in a hotel room in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Quick Hit Review: First let me acknowledge the subject matter of governmental spying on its citizens is an important topic and one that unfortunately I doubt many know or sadly care about as the masses tend to sign over their privacy in exchange for the latest iPhone or other technologies that makes their lives easier. That being said, as important of a subject that it is, Citizenfour doesn’t exactly do it any justice. It’s a dry and often dull experience and even as someone interested in the players like Edward Snowden and to a lesser extent Glenn Greenwald, I found it tough to sit through. I don’t know if this is Poitras’s style having never seen her previous works but I would think an hour long, straight-forward PBS-like documentary would’ve sufficed and probably would’ve made for an interesting viewing.
My criticisms set aside, however, Citizenfour is still essential viewing if only to open the eyes to those who want to learn more about the subject beyond what has been portrayed in the media which more often than not has a political agenda one way or the other, though interestingly, battle lines are drawn and makes for strange bedfellows. So, in spite that it’s not as tight of a film as I’d like, it’s still worth at the very least a rental.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
Deleted Scenes (13:55; HD) – Three “scenes”, if you will, of Snowden interview footage, were cut down.
New York Times Timestalks with Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and David Carr (1:00:02; HD) – This is an interview forum put on by the NYT where the participants answer questions from the moderator.
Film Society of Lincoln Center Q&A (28:22; HD) – Here director Laura Poitras answers questions from moderator Dennis Lim.
“The Program” – A New York Times Op-Doc by Laura Poitras (8:36; HD) –This mini-doc, made for the NYT, focuses on the NSA and the mega data farm being built in Utah as well as interview another whistle-blower.
Previews – The Hunting Ground, The Unknown Known, Great Invisible
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Anchor Bay releases Citizenfour on Blu-ray shown in its original 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture is a bit hard to gauge if only because of the style used with digital cameras and the like. Detail is decent at least and colors appear to be balanced enough but hardly have a pop. For the kind of film this is, it’s a perfectly fine transfer, but nothing more.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
On a similar note, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is on the limited side showcasing the dialogue well enough but that’s about it where the front and, especially, rear channels are utilized all that much. This could’ve easily been a stereo track and accomplished the same results.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Citizenfour reveals and covers a subject Americans should and need to know about but I suspect many, a fair number in the millennial generation, might not take too seriously and maybe even assumes or accepts the government is spying on them. In any case, the subject matter is one thing, this documentary is another. For myself, it never was gripping and even taking into account Laura Poitras more low key, even slow burn, approach didn’t quite do it. Still, this is a documentary still worth checking out.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.