Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, the real-life cyber thriller recounts the untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world.
The sequence, directed by The Mill NY ECD Ben Smith, is a visualization of the decisive turning point in Snowden’s story, the moment when the penny drops and he comes to term with both the enormous scope of the government’s data collection and his decision to oppose it.
To visualize how one NSA target multiplies to absorb the digital data streams of millions of people around the world, Ben looked to the human body and its complex networks. A strand of digital DNA multiplies into thirty, and then thousands to millions, feeding into the black void of the NSA. As the camera pulls out and the sequence closes, the network transforms the most complex organ and the ubiquitous Orwellian visual for surveillance, the human eye, specifically Snowden’s (Gordon-Levitt’s) eye, bringing the story back to him and his evolution in the film.
Ben comments, “Whichever side you take on this polarizing issue, we were inspired to take on this sequence because it's a very important story. We had the opportunity to visualize the change in Snowden's mind when he went from being someone who was essentially a tool in the arsenal of the government to somebody who was against the idea and sacrificed his life to expose it. It was a very appealing project and it was a great experience working with Oliver, and being privy to his process and the way he works.”