March 5, 2006
Directed by: Iain Softley
Written by: Rafael Moreu
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: OK, so its not near future, but these kids have the glorified underground hacker thing down. In Hackers, every computer is networked and available for hacking. Hackers gives us a plethora of cool computer imagery cut scenes, 3D buildings serving as file share stores, and lots of underground punk visuals. These visuals are packed into a nicely paced movie that makes the outlandish story of high stakes theft, environmental destruction and hacker antiheroes fun to watch.
The Story: Hackers follows the life of a group of “Elite” hackers, who, through chance while playing a hacking game, uncover a plot within a large bank to contaminate the environment by blaming innocent hackers on messing up software that causes automated oil tankers to spill in order to cover up the theft of millions. The lead bad guy, code name “The Plague” (played by Fisher Stevens) is also a hacker, except that he has “sold his soul” to corporate life and serves as the lead security consultant. The struggle between the hackers and The Plague inevitably brings in the hapless police, who immediately are duped into arresting the hacker force.
While the larger “destroy the environment for personal and corporate greed” theme is going on, there is also intertwined teenage alienation and bonding themes. Most all the hackers are outcasts from “regular” society. The leads Jonny Lee Miller, who plays hacker “Crash Override,” and Angelina Jolie (Acid Burn) engage in a hacking contest, of which, the loser has to wear a dress on a date (Jolie never wears dresses).
The Hackers: Both Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie do a great job in playing slick, but semi-nerdish “Elite” hackers. They head up a cast of misfits, all of whom are consumed with breaking in to everywhere just to see if they can. Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, and Renoly Santiago all give fun, memorable performances All the popularized hacker approaches are shown here, including social engineering, sifting through trash, and hackers thumbing their nose at authority. The notion of an “Elite,” which is someone in the top 5% of all hackers is given as the ultimate goal for all who aspire to be hackers. To be recognized as such, you have to have a high-profile hack in your history.
The Visuals: Hackers is more visually interesting due to all the creative hacking cut-scenes interspersed throughout the movie. They serve to glorify hacking, networked computers and the overall hacking lifestyle. Because staring at a computer while typing doesn’t yield exciting celluloid, this was a nice approach to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, it is completely absurd from a realism standpoint (especially the 3D knowledge stores), as hackers pretty much keep to source code and text prompts. Shots of the underground punk scene generally consist of flashes of neon colors in darkly lit, oddly shaped rave bars.
The Bottom Line: There are a bunch of the hacker movie types, but I find Hackers to be on of the most enjoyable to watch. This glorification of the hacker movement is charming, as are most of the hacker co-stars. Miller and Jolie have great chemistry, and make you really care about an otherwise absurd story. Again, don’t look for realism in Hackers, but enjoy it nonetheless.