Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Movie #469: The Net

The Net is a mid-90s thriller starring Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northram, Dennis Miller, and Wendy Gazelle. It actually holds up better than I was expecting (spoiler: it's still not good), and although the movie gets very little right about "the internet," it was oddly prescient in some ways.

So! Angela Bennett (Bullock) is a computer programmer and, as is typical of movie computer experts, a shut-in. She works from home, and has very little contact with anyone in the outside world; her mother (Diane Baker) has Alzheimer's and lives in a home, she's estranged from her father, and she has a couple of co-workers but has never met them.

This all becomes freakishly relevant when, after receiving a disk from one of said co-workers (Ray McKinnon) who is then killed in a plane crash, Angela goes away to Mexico on vacation and meets a dashing Englishman named Jack Devlin (Northram) who arranges a mugging to get the disk and then takes her out on his boat to kill her. She escapes, and gets home to find her house has been stolen out from under her, her identity stolen and impossible to verify, and no one can vouch for her - everyone relies entirely on what the computer says, and the computer says she isn't Angela Bennett.

The reasons for this are that a billionaire (Gerald Berns) is trying to take over the US government by selling them a security program that the insidious Praetorian cyber-terrorist group that he can then use as a back door, blah blah blah. The real tension in this movie comes from watching Angela try to explain to people who she is, that her friend Alan (Miller) wasn't diabetic, and having everyone confirm everything on a screen, only to have that data manipulated.

Like I said, it's kinda prescient. I think the most unrealistic thing about this movie (aside from ordering pizza from a site called "pizza.net") is that everyone in the movie uncritically checks computers, and then absolutely refuses to hear anything else, when an attractive white woman is standing in front of them making a scene. With that said, though, Angela mentions that everything about us - credit reports, medical history, etc. - is in computers, "a little electronic shadow", and that data is vulnerable. And now here we are in 2018, living in a dystopia much more subtle than the ones the Praetorians cooked up.

This is early Bullock, but she's already showing signs of greatness (The Blind Side aside, she's a good actress). Northram is appropriately charming and creepy, though I wish that he hadn't gone quite so hard to creepy, because before he reveals his true intentions to Angela he looked really conflicted about having to kill her, and that would have made his character much more interesting if they'd kept it. Dennis Miller is barely annoying at all while he's on screen, which for him is an accomplishment.

All in all, it's not a terrible movie, but it's not terrific, either.

My grade: C+
Rewatch value: Medium

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