Edward Snowden: The Insta-Movie in GIFs

Lilian Min
Movie Talk

Edward Snowden could be Ryan Gosling. Or James McAvoy. Maybe even Brad Pitt, if you don't mind (somewhat) aging up the news cycle's reigning 30-year-old anti-hero.

No matter who gets the role, someone, it seems certain, will get it. Snowden, the former government contractor turned National Security Agency whistleblower turned international man of mystery, is nothing if not a big-screen thriller waiting to be optioned and released.

So, here's our pitch: "The Conversation" meets "All the President's Men," with dashes of "Showgirls" and James Bond to keep the kids interested.

But wait, there's more: Here's our movie. Right here, right now. As told entirely in animated GIFs.

Fire up the popcorn.


Cue the opening music: La Scala & Kolacny Brothers' beautiful-but-exceptionally-creepy version of "Every Breath You Take."

Fade in...

An airplane, flying high, somewhere — a man jumping out...


Where is he going? Why did he do that? And, most important, who is he?

Cut to: an inscription over black. The (paraphrased) quote, from Snowden himself, reads, "I’ve been a spy almost all my life."

Enter the young Snowden.



As Snowden reaches his teen years, he remains an observer, a shy and nerdy outcast. Most troubling of all, per the rules of cinema, he takes to wearing hoodies.


Looking to find his place, Snowden drops out of high school, drops into community college — he even gives the Army a shot.


Always something of a computer buff, Snowden gives I.T. a try. Finally, it all clicks.



Snowden works his way up the geek-guy ladder. With the added responsibility and money comes the pole-dancing girlfriend.

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The good times are about to get even better. Snowden's up for a job with Booz Allen Hamilton, an elite technology consulting firm that works with the NSA. It's a sweet gig, one that, in addition to enviable access, will land Snowden a six-figure salary and a pad in Hawaii. But Snowden's iffy academic past could be a problem...


Padded resume or no, Snowden gets the job. He and Lindsay, the girlfriend, are rolling in the money. Literally.


Inevitably, Snowden's life and career take a turn for the middle-of-act-two worse. He becomes disillusioned with his work for the feds.


Then, one sleepless night, Snowden finds something he shouldn't...

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Wiretaps! Unchecked access to cell-phone records! All-around snooping! Snowden reels as he realizes that he, the lifelong spy, and everyone else for that matter, has been spied on — by their own government! But what to do? Where to turn? Wait, there's something in the newspaper...



A report on a whistleblower gives Snowden an idea: He'll be a whistleblower, too! But first, he needs proof of what the NSA has been up to.

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A cautious Snowden, using the codename Verax (Latin for truth-teller), reaches out to a reporter to tell the story. Enter Glenn Greenwald, American journalist and reporter for London's Guardian.

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After being provided with proof of Snowden's accusations, via encrypted email, Greenwald and his paper shock the world—and especially the U.S. government—with Snowden's (as-yet-anonymous) accusations.


Snowden gives Greenwald to go-ahead to expose him as the whistleblower — but first, he makes a get-away...

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Snowden makes his way into Hong Kong. But can the feds—and their spies—be far behind?

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Then, as the U.S. authorities close in, an unlikely ally enters the picture: Vladimir Putin!

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With Snowden on the run, and in Russia, the blindsided, abandoned girlfriend is at left at loose ends.

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Tension mounts--and the feds put the screws to Greenwald!

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Meanwhile, back in Russia, Snowden goes deep, deep, deep undercover.

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The ruse works! Snowden returns to Hawaii, undetected, to reunite with Lindsay — and, sadly, to say goodbye. For good.

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Hailed as a hero by the right and left, and derided as a loose cannon by other members of the same affiliations, Snowden zips up his hoodie one last time, boards a charter flight to Cuba — and jumps...


Does he live? Does he die?

Only the NSA knows for sure. Cue the unsettling tag...


Fade to chilling black.

Finally, our title comes up on the screen: "Verax."

Roll the credits — and the following note: "This film was based on stuff we read on the Internet, and especially, on Wikipedia, except for the some of the stuff at the end, which we made up, and much of the stuff at the beginning and the middle, which we alterered to suit our dramatic purposes. We did not, however, make up the pole dancing. Also, we got the idea of casting "From Russia With Love" Bond villain Kronsteen as Putin from Cheezburger. So, thanks for that and all."

The end.

Next up: Oscar season!