Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sneaker Net

It's weird watching Sneakers (1992) in the 21st century: It seems so modern and yet so old-fashioned. Of course dial-up modems look outdated, but even fat screens instead of flatscreens seem funny.

The movie actually starts in the good old days, with a couple of college kids in the 1970s hacking into banks and giving away the money. One gets caught, the other escapes and grows up to be Robert Redford. He runs a group that tests security for banks, etc, by hacking them and telling them where they are vulnerable. His team includes ex-CIA Sidney Poitier, conspiracy freak Dan Akroyd (codename: Mother), blind signals man David Strathairn (aka Whistler) and cute young River Phoenix. They get roped into a shady caper by some NSA men, and that's how it all gets started.

Everything is surprisingly fresh feeling, what with the NSA and the crypto stuff (supposedly accurate - provided by Len Adelman of RSA). The Bay Area locations felt real. On the other hand, this was when the NSA was an obscure agency in charge of SIGINT, not the Big Brother panopticon organization they are now known to be. So, a little double take there.

This was pretty well done and enjoyable, although I didn't exactly flip over it. It might make an interesting double feature with The Net. It's pretty silly, maybe a little more comedy than thriller (having Dan Akroyd might be a clue, although he doesn't do much) (and is his Mother a call back to Bill Cosby's Mother, Jugs and Speed?).

In conclusion, "sneakers" seems to mean "hackers", since someone calls their capers a "sneak" (= hack). Just FYI.

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