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Documentary . Biography

In June 2013, Laura Poitras and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Poitras is a great and brave filmmaker, but she is also a masterful storyteller: she compresses the many days of questioning, waiting, confirming, watching the world’s reaction and agonizing over the next move, into both a great character study of Snowden and a narrative that will leave you on the edge of your seat as it inexorably moves toward its conclusion.

Actors: Jeremy Scahill , Laura Poitras , Lindsay Mills , Ewen MacAskill , William Binney , Kevin Bankston , Jacob Appelbaum , Glenn Greenwald , Julian Assange , Edward Snowden
Directors: Laura Poitras
Country: USA , GERMANY , UK
Release: 2014-11-28
More Info:
  • Joe Williams

    The message of the movie is as clear as Siberian ice: Whether you’re a Tea Partier, an Occupier or just an ordinary Joe, you might be the next citizen who’s stranded in limbo.

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch Full Review
  • Liam Lacey

    The documentary of the year may also be its most hair-raising thriller.

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
  • Ty Burr

    Citzenfour is prosaic in its presentation and profoundly chilling in its details, and if you think Snowden is a traitor, you should probably see it. If you think he’s a hero, you should probably see it. If you haven’t made up your mind — well, you get the idea.

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • John Anderson

    There are not a lot of moments in documentary cinema that equal Citizenfour. Ms. Poitras was already at work on a film about government surveillance when Mr. Snowden presented himself, and she’s something of a lightning rod, too, one with little evident sympathy for Obama administration data mining.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Drew Taylor

    This is a movie primarily concerned with numbers and the way that information is fed, processed, and acted upon. But it plays like the greatest paranoid thriller since "All the President's Men."

    The Playlist Full Review
  • Godfrey Cheshire

    Though superlatives can mischaracterize any movie’s qualities, it is not an overstatement, I think, to call Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ film about Edward Snowden, the movie of the century (to date). Full Review
  • Thomas Lee

    And there lies the greatest flaw with Citzenfour and Snowden himself. Despite the film’s virtues, we’re no closer to understanding Snowden than we were a year ago when this saga began.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • A.O. Scott

    Cinema, even in the service of journalism, is always more than reporting, and focusing on what Ms. Poitras’s film is about risks ignoring what it is. It’s a tense and frightening thriller that blends the brisk globe-trotting of the “Bourne” movies with the spooky, atmospheric effects of a Japanese horror film. And it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • Matt Patches

    CITIZENFOUR is an expertly crafted expose with unprecedented urgency.

    HitFix Full Review
  • Peter Bradshaw

    Citizenfour is a gripping record of how our rulers are addicted to gaining more and more power and control over us – if we let them.

    The Guardian Full Review
  • Ronnie Scheib

    Adapting the cold language of data encryption to recount a dramatic saga of abuse of power and justified paranoia, Poitras brilliantly demonstrates that information is a weapon that cuts both ways.

    Variety Full Review
  • Jeff Baker

    Poitras' footage of what happened in Hong Kong is at the heart of Citizenfour, her new movie, and it is enthralling, a rare look at a crucial historical event as it happened.

    Portland Oregonian Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    The larger point in Citizenfour is that dictatorships have always relied on the massive gathering of information in order to control their populations. In this brave new cyber world, it is all too easy for democracies to cross the line, too.

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • David Ehrlich

    Citizenfour offers a remarkably intimate look at history as it happened. In fact, the immediacy of Poitras’ film is so remarkable that, at least for the immediate future, her craft is likely to be overshadowed by her access, her storytelling overshadowed by her opportunity.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Eric Kohn

    Poitras, an expert filmmaker as keyed into pace and mood as the topic they support, delivers a mesmerizing look at both how Snowden managed to release his information as well as why it all matters.

    indieWIRE Full Review
  • Alonso Duralde

    Citizenfour finds its strength in both the story and the telling: The information about government spying is chilling, of course, but the movie also gives us the opportunity to get to know the elusive Snowden.

    TheWrap Full Review
  • Andrew O'Hehir

    Citizenfour is both an urgent tale torn from recent headlines and a compelling work of cinema, with all the paranoid density and abrupt changes of scenery of a John le Carré novel. Full Review
  • Todd McCarthy

    No matter one's personal stance about what Snowden did, this revelatory work is fascinating and thought-provoking, if, at the same time, oddly lacking in tension; unlike the provocations of Michael Moore or Oliver Stone, the temperature of this film is very cool.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Marc Savlov

    Citizenfour is obviously in Snowden’s corner, but as an example of pure cinema vérité, this is the finest – and most disturbing – political documentary since Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning "Taxi to the Dark Side."

    Austin Chronicle Full Review
  • Claudia Puig

    The year's most riveting documentary.

    USA Today Full Review
  • Bill Stamets

    This thoughtful film is designed with taste. Music is minimal. Cuing a little Nine Inch Nails at the end, Poitras enables “citizenfour” to commit an act of reverse surveillance on the NSA.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

    The film works, whatever your ethical stance on Snowden, because it's more procedural than polemic.

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    It's a wow of a thriller with a soul that isn't computer generated. Poitras may be guilty of taking Snowden at face value, but she succeeds brilliantly in evoking a shadow villain intent on world domination. Big Brother is back, baby, and he's gone digital.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Ann Hornaday

    Citizenfour isn’t just a useful primer in the civil liberties and consent issues his disclosures raised. It humanizes a man who almost immediately became controversialized as a naive, self-important desk jockey or, worse, a handmaiden to terrorists everywhere.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Elise Nakhnikian

    Laura Poitras teaches by example, providing a privileged insight into Edward Snowden's personality and motivation while keeping the focus on government spying.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
  • Joe McGovern

    For all its brio, the film is overcautious about pointing fingers.

    Entertainment Weekly Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    The story Snowden tells is, of course, absorbing, disturbing and, yes, scary. Poitras' film, playing out as more and more is revealed, reported and published, comes off like a real-life spy thriller.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Simon Crook

    Bold, unblinking filmmaking – no less than a living document of a global scandal straight from the whistleblower. Alarming and essential – anyone with a phone should see it.

    Empire Full Review
  • Tim Robey

    Poitras sets the saga on a low simmer, while the Social Network-like score throbs away.

    The Telegraph Full Review
  • Elizabeth Weitzman

    So is he a martyred patriot or a misguided traitor? And is it possible he’s both? Poitras comes down firmly on one side, and she makes a strong case. But the movie would have been stronger still if she’d acknowledged the alternative view.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • Scott Tobias

    Poitras fashions Citizenfour into a spy thriller whose intrigues bleed into everyday life. She doesn’t want the audience to feel like Snowden’s revelations are limited to him and potential enemies of the state—or even to activist journalists like her and Greenwald. She makes the threat feel as pervasive as they believe it to be.

    The Dissolve Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    The hotel scenes go on a tad long, but what holds us is that we’re right in the room as history is being made — with the guy, the actual guy, soon to be notorious all over the world.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Alan Scherstuhl

    Poitras shows us history as it happens, scenes of such intimate momentousness that the movie's a must-see piece of work even if, in its totality, it's underwhelming as argument or cinema.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • Dave Calhoun

    Citizenfour is at its most eye-opening and essential simply as a portrait of the then 29-year-old Snowden at a point of absolute no-return in his life as he spends almost a week hiding out in Hong Kong before disappearing into an entirely new existence.

    Time Out London Full Review
  • Rene Rodriguez

    Using a buzzy, unnerving score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Citizenfour makes you share the same sense of shock and paranoia as Snowden spews damning information that implicates the White House in transgressions that extend beyond our borders into other countries.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • Kenneth Turan

    Citizenfour is a formidable viewing experience, but it's not necessarily a problem-free film.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • David Hiltbrand

    This is a complicated story, but it's efficiently laid out by Poitras in this smartly edited project. She has posed Citizenfour as the final piece of a post-9/11 trilogy that began with "My Country, My Country" (about the 2006 elections in Iran) and "The Oath" (about Guantanamo).

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Emma Morgan

    Snowden proves surprisingly sympathetic. His intentions appear to have no subtext, but sadly neither does the doc; the irony of an infodump approach to mass surveillance goes disappointingly unexploited.

    Total Film Full Review
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