Americans, do yourselves a favor and watch “Citizenfour.” If you have never seen it, do so now; if you have already seen it, do so again. After that, show it to every person you know. And if by chance some reticent grandparent absolutely refuses to see “those fancy art-house talkies,” bring them to Oliver Stone’s “Snowden,” now playing in theaters nationwide. It is a dumbed-down version but it will have to do.

“I don’t want the story to be about me,” said Edward Snowden in his first interview, and he has made good on that promise since. Whatever his intentions, it is largely agreed that Snowden has taken himself out of the picture by handing over information to trusted journalists, giving limited interviews and lying low in Moscow. It also helps that the guy has no sex appeal. (Reporters struggle to find synonyms for “boring” when describing the way he talks.) So how does one make a Hollywood biopic of a dull man?

Stone’s answer is to make him a spook with a heart of gold. Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is no longer the cerebral hacker we saw in the news, but a conscientious do-gooder who silently rages when his boss tells him to “let it be someone else’s problem.” Seen here in his earnest puppy mode (think “Brick”), Gordon-Levitt pulls off a note-for-note impersonation of Snowden’s awkward mannerisms. The film charts his personal life from 2004 to 2013, and the dramatic action is basically the loss of innocence; as Snowden—called “Snow White” by his colleague—moves deeper into the rings of hell, we await his disillusionment.

But much of that is public record, and Stone adds little by merely recreating the “skinny guy in the army” montage from “Captain America.” The movie tries to find depth with the help of Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), Snowden’s long-suffering girlfriend who is tasked with humanizing him on screen. Snowden keeps her at a constant remove, so her challenge and ours is to overcome his emotional defenses. It is a good dynamic, adequately developed, but the writing ultimately lets her down. She offers no surprising insight into the human compulsions of Edward Snowden, and as such, is a missed opportunity.

For those who were expecting espionage hijinks, “Snowden”may provide limited thrills. Almost in self-mockery, the movie has establishing shots of exotic locales, subtitled with things like “Geneva, 2007.” Except, where Bond and Bourne will be kicking ass, Snowden goes into dim rooms to look at screens. The most exciting action sequence involves copying files onto a micro-SD card. (For an actual NSA thriller go for “Enemy of the State,” which in hindsight looks remarkably prescient.) But at least the movie is pretty. Being a Stone vehicle, it has the benefit of being handsomely staged and nicely shot, so the audience has an excuse to ignore how the supporting cast is wasted.

Many have criticized Stone’s political bias—the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has a thing or two to say about that—but what is more apparent is his lack of subtlety. The preachy dialogue could be drawn from a civics textbook, and the imagery is unbelievably on the nose: one scene makes winking reference to Orwell, and in another a toy drone falls symbolically out of the sky. This is the kind of movie where the CIA honcho (Rhys Ifans) says, “Most Americans don’t want freedom, they want security,’ and it becomes clear that Snowden is a morality play animated by caricatures.

But then again, making simple movies is not a sin. Making irresponsible movies is another matter. The most objectionable part of “Snowden”is its ending: in real life, the NSA surveillance scandal is a story with only a beginning and a middle; but to coerce the narrative into typical Hollywood logic, Stone settles for a happy ending which elevates Snowden to sainthood. The movie cuts from Gordon-Levitt to the real Edward Snowden, where he delivers a hopeful monologue to uplifting music, followed by a standing ovation by an on-screen audience. As credits roll, post-Snowden newspaper headlines are shown, promising change.

This self-congratulatory air is not just inappropriate but potentially dangerous. “Snowden”is not nearly anxious enough: the movie is marketed as a bid to revive interest in the national debate over government surveillance, but for most audiences, it signals the end of a conversation. Edward Snowden himself advocates constant vigilance, which sits uneasily with the false closure of this saccharine fairy tale. But his endorsement of Stone’s project is perhaps a recognition that the trade-off is worth it.

If your granny puts tape over her webcam after watching “Snowden,” then maybe it’s a start.