113: Sneakers

Believe it or not, but not so long ago there was no internet available to the masses. People needed to use modems and telephone lines to connect with other people around the world. One awesome example of this is John Badham’s WarGames, wherein a young Matthew Broderick uses his ancient computer and 8″ floppy discs to start a thermonuclear war. Another such example of outdated technology is Sneakers, a delicious relic from 1992. A movie I have revisited often over the years.

Martin Bishop and his college friend Cosmo want a better world. One night they are fooling around by transferring some funds from the rich to the poor through their mastery of the computermodem, like modern day Robin Hoods. While on a pizza raid, Martin sees how Cosmo is arrested for what they did. Martin decides to run and not help his friend who is thrown in jail for a considerable amount of years. Cut to present day. Martin is now head of a group of technical wizards who test the security of high profile businesses. Something very new twenty years ago. He comes across a box that seems to crack every single code on the planet. This is the beginning of a long game of cat and mouse between Martin’s team and every conceivable agency on Earth… and an old friend.

It is not such a coincidence that Sneakers seems like the somewhat grownup version of WarGames, because they are both written by the same guy, Lawrence Lasker. Maybe that’s the reason I just love this movie to death. There is a playfulness to it that is infectious, just like WarGames. The cast clearly has a ball with Lawrence Lasker’s words. From the thoughtful speeches by Cosmo, which are still relevant today, to the constant banter between the members of Bishop’s team. It just doesn’t get old. Seeing Dan Aykroyd verbally fight with Sidney Poitier is priceless. Oh, and Stephen Tobolowsky is in it.

And then there’s the tech. It may be hopelessly outdated, but Sneakers is totally OK with that. Sometimes you get the feeling when watching an older movie that the movie itself is ashamed about its dated nature. And you can’t help but go along with that. With Sneakers this is not the case. It is so convinced that this is the best tech for the job that you are as well. Using a telephone modem to track a phone call across the world, using thermal imaging to survey a building, using sound equipment to find the way to Cosmo’s company. It just all makes sense and that’s what makes Sneakers a great movie every single time I watch it. Like WarGames I can watch this over and over. Maybe I should make this a double feature someday.

> IMDb

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058: 1492: Conquest of Paradise

This is the eighth movie in my Ridley Scott retrospective.

Ridley Scott always has a tendency to go a little overboard when he is making a movie with its roots in history. 1492: Conquest of Paradise is certainly a victim of this. I had not seen this epic depiction of Christopher Columbus’ iconic voyages since its first release. I was not a fan back then in 1992, but I was twenty years younger as well. I thought maybe this movie would have aged along with me and leave a better impression this time around. Unfortunately this is not the case.

1492: Conquest of Paradise is impeccably produced. Every shot is composed like a painting and truly a sight to behold thanks to the production design by Norris Spencer (Black Rain) and camera work by Adrian Biddle (Aliens). But, as is often the case with paintings, this movie has no movement in it. For nearly two and a half hours we are presented with scene after scene with seemingly important information and situations, but it never resonates as a whole. It just gets really tedious after a while.

For a movie to keep moving you need something or someone to latch on to. That someone should have been Depardieu, who plays Columbus, but he is visibly struggling with this role. Physically he is up to the task, but the English lines he utters are about as convincing as a toddler reciting Shakespeare. It is endearing at first, but it gets on your nerves really quick. There are some stirring scenes in this epic failure. When 1492 gets it right it gets it really right. Regrettably this occurs way too little. I advise everybody to leave this for what it is and go watch Gladiator or the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven. At least you get some spectacle out of those epics.

> IMDb