What's Worth Watching: Oscar-winning Citizenfour Puts the Thrill in the News

Aubry D'Arminio
Courtesy of HBO


Citizenfour (Monday, Feb. 23, 9/8c, HBO)

No doubt you already know all about Citizenfour, and how director Laura Poitras followed whistle-blower Edward Snowden from hotel room to hotel room for eight days as he leaked top-secret documents revealing that the NSA spied on American citizens. You watch the news. You also probably have strong opinions about both the filmmaker and her subject. But however you feel, you should see this film. It plays like a spy thriller: In the denouement, filmed in Russia, the co-conspirators feel forced to communicate verbally in partial sentences while writing the important words on pieces of paper and then quickly shredding them. Anyone could be listening! That's some Jason Bourne stuff. Okay, maybe not Bourne, but definitely something that Julia Stiles' mousy operative would do. Citizenfour also does its best to put computer spy jargon ("tasking," "upstream," "selector") in human terms to show the NSA's reach. Whether or not you want to disconnect your cable, take the battery out of your phone, and cut up your credit cards after watching the documentary is your business. Or not.