With an all-star cast, great on screen chemistry, and a semi-realistic take on the “hacker” film, Sneakers is a classic.
Released in September of 1992, Sneakers follows the story of a hacker named Martin Bishop (played by Robert Redford) who leads a diverse team of people who specialize in analysing security holes in various corporations’ computer systems and then reporting the results. When a visit by the NSA threatens to reveal Bishop’s past, he decides to play ball and hunt down a box designed and built by a mathematician. Unfortunately, once his team finds out what the box is used for, everyone wants a piece of them.
Part of what makes Sneakers so fun is that much of the film is realistic (at least, compared to other films where hacking plays a major role.) Certain scenes, like when they zoom in on a VHS-recorded video and get a razor sharp close up are far fetched, but for the most part the film stays within the realm of reality. Bishop’s team is comprised mostly of middle aged folks that have capabilities in both the old and new ways. There are multiple points in the film that poke fun at the team struggling with knowing how to circumvent new technology, while simultaneously lamenting that it isn’t older. Even though it deals with very serious subjects, Sneakers has an overall playful tone; there are multiple points where you expect characters to stare straight into the camera and knock the fourth wall down with a hammer. They never do, but you can tell their characters really want to.
The chemistry between the cast is exceptional. Nearly every major character could get in a group with any of the other characters, and they would click together perfectly. I couldn’t find much info regarding the casting process for this film, but this natural chemistry must have played a major role in it. No single actor or character steals the show here…they are all equally entertaining, each with their own quirk or oddity. Despite their considerable knowledge, none of them are anywhere close to being perfect, and they know it. They seem to embrace each other’s weaknesses, and pick up the slack where it is needed.
There aren’t any clever camera angles or strange sequences, although the lighting during scenes that take place in their truck is done very well. Mimicking low light while still having enough light to see details on the walls and in the actors’ expressions is impressive. The attention to detail in their safehouse is impressive as well, considering the amount of various equipment, wires, and who knows what else laying around everywhere. James Horner’s score matches up with the film, and helps provide it with a whimsical undertone.
For myself, Sneakers is a member of the holy trifecta of hacker films (the other two being WarGames and Hackers.) They all have a whimsical tone, despite the serious subjects they cover. If you haven’t seen Sneakers before, do yourself a favor and find a copy; it’s a great movie.