run time: 107 mins
considered: Action, Crime, Drama
director: Iain Softley
starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Laurence Mason, Renoly Santiago, Fisher Stevens, Alberta Watson, Darren Lee, Peter Y. Kim, Ethan Browne, Lorraine Bracco, Wendell Pierce, Michael Gaston, Marc Anthony
movie summary: Back in the 1990s, before America Online, Facebook, Twitter, and iPhones, there was a world without the internet. Those fortunate enough to have a computer sometimes used it for bad reasons like creating viruses and hacking into financial institutions to steal money. Then there is Dade Murphy (Jonny Lee Miller), a hacker who hacks into other computers to mess with their operating systems and other fun programs. Dade was once busted for his activity when he was a kid, and his punishment was to stay away from computers and telephones until his 18th birthday.
Dade and his mom move back to New York City for his senior year of high school, where on his first day, he meets the lovely Kate Libby (Angelina Jolie). After discovering he’s not in any of his classes, Dade hacks into the school’s system to give himself new classes. A fellow classmate, Ramon “Phreak” Sanchez (Renoly Santiago), watches him do his work and offers to hang out with him since they both share an interest in computers. At night in the comfort of his bedroom, Dade plays on the computer under the name “Crash Override.” He hacks into local tv stations to change their programs to his liking or writes computer codes to master the art of breaking them later.
One day at lunch, Joey (Jesse Bradford) is bragging about hacking a bank ATM machine in another state. The gang warns him about how stupid and how the FBI will track him to cross state lines. He continues on about another file he found called “garbage” in the supercomputer “The Gibson” owned and operated by the Ellington Mineral Company. He couldn’t explain what was in the file, but it was extremely complex, and he needed help understanding it. Joey spends a few days trying to crack the garbage file, while Dade tries to flirt and win over Kate without much luck. When the FBI shows up to bust Joey for computer fraud, he manages to get the disc to Phreak, who enlists Dade and Kate and his two other friends Emmanuel Goldstein (Matthew Lillard) Lord Nikon (Laurence Mason) to help crack the file.
Ellington Mineral employs a hacker of their own, Eugene “The Plague” Belford. He was hired to write encrypted files to protect the company from hackers and handle any computer-related issues when they arise. Eugene has a plan up his sleeve to write a virus called the Da Vinci Virus that will capsize oil tankers out on the ocean unless $25 million is transferred into an off-shore bank account. His escape from the real world involves blaming Joey and the gang for hacking into the system so that they take the fall, and he quietly disappears. Eugene plays along with the FBI to get them thinking the kids are to blame, leading them to Dade, who has a record from when he was younger. His name was “Zero Cool,” and he crashed 1,507 computers and cause a drop on the New York Stock Exchange. Eugene knows Dade has the disc and needs it back to launch the virus since Joey took some of the code with him, so when Dade meets to give up the disc to save his mom from going to jail, Kate and the gang hate him for turning on them.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, he tells everyone that he was Zero Cool and offers to hack back into the Gibson to find the garbage file to crack the code. After staying up all night running through the numbers, the gang figure out that the virus is a worm that has been stealing money every day for the last couple of years and that the program will run its course the same day as the oil spills. They agree to meet up at Grand Central station the next day to use the phone lines to take down the virus and expose Eugene and his corrupt ways. Time is not on their side because the FBI is hunting them with arrest warrants for creating and launching the Da Vinci virus.
my thoughts: Hackers is one of the great cult movies ever made. Released back in 1995 before everyone had a computer, the movie made a little over $7 million during its run at the box office. People really didn’t know what a hacker was back then; they just understood that a hacker was a rebellious trouble maker. This movie helps give the world a glimpse at the power these people have with computers, and what they do isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. Hackers have gained a large fan-base thanks to the rapid growth of computer users across the world and the fact it was one of Angeline Jolie’s first big roles.
The graphics, computers, and story are extremely outdated for 2014, but this movie is still fun to watch because that was how life was back then. Anyone who remembers what the first computers were like and how complex they were will smile watching these amateurs take the professionals to the cleaners. This story is simply good people teaming up together to take down the bad guys with a computer sub-plot thrown in. These devices serve as land mines, and only the highly skilled can manoeuvre around them and catch the other’s person flag, or in this case, virus.
The story does a great job of exposing us to an elite underground where membership can only be attained by a specific skill set. These kids are not rich and famous, but average ones who do what they do for fun. They enjoy techno music, rollerblading, pizza, and new computers. They all share a common desire, which helps unite them as they work their asses off to stay out of jail and prove their innocence.
my star rating: 8 out 10
imdb.com: 6.1 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 34% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 3 out 4