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A fascinating crime caper about hacking encryption codes.
Director Phil Alden Robinson's crime caper Sneakers (1992) is an engaging humorous comedy with an all star cast. Robinson brings clear coherent storytelling with his slick and grounded representation of hacking to allow any audience to understand complex computer ideas. Tom Rolf's editing is tight as Sneakers is barely over 2 hours and feels like 1 in Sneaker's quick pacing. Alongside John Lindley's neat panning shots around rooms with multiple characters, you are always gripped by the performances and held in the moment with cool camera choices.
Writers Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, and Walter Parkes create a sense of paranoia and purpose for Sneakers. The leads always feel like they are being followed or watched, while the selfless messaging of Sneakers feels earnest. All their crimes of breaking and entering or theft result in the betterment of the public, which is just a nice sentiment instead of greedy motivation for our heroes. I loved each character's demands for the NSA in the finale being simple, selfless, or humble.
James Horner's score is delightful as the legendary composer's trademark warm sounds are all over Sneakers. The suspenseful sequences are all the more tense thanks to his jolt of energy compositions.
Notably, Sneakers thrives on the strength of its massive ensemble of mega star actors. Robert Redford leads the fray as professional hacker Martin Bishop. Redford pulls of his trademark subtle looks and suave persona for another cool espionage thriller with Sneakers. Redford is always charming, cool, and engaging making for a compelling lead.
Mary McDonnell has wonderful chemistry Robert Redford as Bishop's ex-love Liz. Her fiery personality comes across as sincere and funny. She's clever as Liz with a quick wit and a likable portrayal. Her improvising on a date with the ultra nerdy Stephen Tobolowsky's Dr. Werner Brandes is one of Sneaker's funniest scenes.
Sidney Poitier's ex-CIA operative Donald Crease is clever and wise. His serious portrayal is the perfect foil for Redford's easy going criminal. Poitier takes the role so nervously that he adds a layer of realistic weight to each new threat they face.
I must mention the handsome and talented River Phoenix as young genius Carl Arbogast. His desperate desire for a girlfriend is relatable and makes him immediately likable. Phoenix plays well with the big dogs of Redford and Poitier. His Carl character is fun and helpful with the sweetest ending.
I loved David Strathairn's depiction of the blind sound expert Whistler. His nuanced choices about hand movement, vocal quality, face movement, and keen listening made you believe that he was blind. I liked how he interacted with the braille computer keys in such a way that it really looked like he needed them. He gets some of the most emotional moments with Redford in Strathairn's lovable role in Sneakers.
Dan Aykroyd is funny as the gadget maker and conspiracy theorist team member called Mother. His ceaseless remarks to Poitier about conspiracy theories he believes in are really funny.
On the other hand, the genuinely serious Sir Ben Kingsley delivers a fantastic performance as the distant hacker activist Cosmo. His scenes opposite Redford are powerful as they both display their dramatic acting prowess. Kingsley makes Cosmo appear earnest at every opportunity. It's cool that him and Redford took a comedy role like Sneakers to heart.
Lastly, James Earl Jones is cool as the NSA contact Bernard Abbott. His reactions to the team's demands may be the funniest scene in Sneakers.
Even though much of Sneakers feels dated and campy at times, it's still riveting and pleasant enough for multiple viewings! I think most audience members will enjoy Sneakers thoroughly!
A '90s all-star ensemble spy drama that makes plenty of humor, well-done cinematography, and tech-based set pieces a part of its blueprint, while just throwing in the usual plot points in the genre for good measure.
For how thin and conventional the plot is, how simple and straightforward the direction, how breezy and smooth the dialogue, how familiar and passé the soundtrack, the effect of the truly all-star is in the end quite wonderfully weird. If you were to tell someone that Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley star as rival super hackers, or that David Strathairn plays a blind computer wiz-at the dawn of the digital age, nonetheless-the movie they would imagine would never be this brisk, this enjoyable, and this agreeable. (Of course, if you had told me that Aykroyd played a conspiracy nut-well, that I would believe in a heartbeat.) Ultimately, what the movie lacks in actual risk taking it more than makes up for in charismatic performances, snappy screenwriting, and a sense of fun aided by a light directorial touch, making for a minor gem that holds up better than most tech-centered films from the same time period, in part because it doesn't take the tech (or itself) so seriously.
One of my favorite 90's movies. What a cast! This movie is definitely worth a rental. You won't be disappointed but you have to go into the 90's mind frame to really appreciate it.
In my Top 40 Movies of All Time. Cast is stellar, script is unique, Fun, shocking, exiting, relevant.
Very good movie. While much of the plot does feel predictable, there's still a sense of originality and fun throughout as the characters all feature unique and compelling features, the direction is stylish and the performances are all great, especially Redford, Strathairn, Aykroyd and Poitier.
Loved this movie on the day it was released (yup, actually saw it in the theatres in Palo Alto), and still love it to this day. This should be "a must see" movie for anyone who thinks hacking is easy, or that old timers had it "easy" in the good old days.
Good older movie. Well worth another viewing.
"It's all about the information."
As if the film anticipated how much more true that would become in the future. 22 years later and we see evidence of it now more than ever before. Despite that one line having lasting impact, the rest of the film really doesn't. There's something about it that just seems too dated for its own good. It's not the older tech of the film, b/c "War Games" is even older (1985) and that holds up much better. It's just this film doesn't have the stellar quality in terms of the performances despite the talent brought together for it.
A sort-of pre-'Mission Impossible' heist film, with a team of ex-CIA-types stealing a box (exciting!), then getting it taken off them & having to re-steal it. Some funny moments, but not really enough action/excitement. everyon'es fine - but needed more Akroyd & Poitier was under-used. Predictable ending & the stakes never felt that high, but not a bad "spy" film.