Movie Classic: Sneakers

by Jen on January 1, 2007

-Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson

Starring:
-Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Sidney Poitier

For the sake of discussion, let’s say you were making a suspense movie. And, let’s say you had the ability to cast this suspense movie with any actor you wanted. If you were a smart director, you’d go after many of the people who you’ll find in this movie. Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, Dan Akroyd. Six actors who are masters at drama, comedy, and suspense. Put them together, and you get Sneakers. With a script written by Phil Alden Robinson, and Lawrence Lasker, Sneakers is a very slick movie. Based around an idea that it’s creators heard about at a computer convention, Sneakers is about people who live a bit on the fringe. These are people who gather together and use their myriad of skills to break into places with talents ranging from computer hacking, security, and a lot of other things they’d probably rather I not mention. But the creators of the movie took this basically illegal group of people and turned it on its side. What if there was a group of people who used their illegal skills to help companies keep themselves secure from thieves? It’s an interesting premise, and thanks to some clever research by the creators, is sold admirably in this 1992 movie.

This is a story about secrets. What people will do for them, and what people will do to protect them. The leader of this story is Redford’s character Martin Bishop, who is a man who made a mistake in his youth. Running from an incident that happened when he was young, he is a man constantly changing. He’s one of the first people who discovered the art of hacking, and thanks to that mistake is now living underground. The story picks up 25 years later with his past in disarray, and him in the company of people who are a lot like him. Whistler, played by Strathairn, is a blind man who has an uncanny knack with machines and is their hacker extraordinaire. He is blessed with a sensitivity to the underlying truth in a situation, and is by far the most intutive of the group. Strathairn is thoughtful actor, and he’s able to bring that care and a sly sort of humor to a character who has some of the comic moments of the movie. Crease, who is gruffly brought to life by Poitier, is a former intelligence agent who helps the team with intelligence gathering and brings some of the logic and rationality to people who sometimes fly a bit too close to the sun. He’s the embodiment of the “system” and can easily get wound up when faced with the weirdness of Mother. He’s the safety net for the sneakers, and he knows what the true meaning of security. He’s seen things most of the team have talked about, and when the going gets rought you look to Crease to help get it fixed. Mother is played by Dan Akroyd, and is something of the cowardly lion. An ex-hippy, he’s the guy who crawls through the sewer to help get the job done. He holds onto the paranoia and conspiracy theories of his generation, and enjoys nothing more than clinging to them and tormenting Crease with them. Akroyd says that Mother is him playing his brother, who believes a lot of what his character does.

On the other side of the story is Ben Kingsley, who plays Cosmo. Cosmo was a childhood friend of Bishop who wound up going to jail for the mistake that Bishop played a part in. Bishop and Cosmo are two sides of the same coin, and Kingsley is the cool center of logic to Redford’s passion. To Cosmo, emotions are messy and something to be avoided. In his mind, a computer is a far more pure thing and it’s something that can be trusted far more reasonably than the people who operate them. Cosmo becomes obsessed with controlling the information, controlling the secrets and in that obsession lies the real tension of the film. It’s an artful game that Kingsley plays, and in a counterbalance to Redford and the rest of the sneaker team it makes for some fantastic acting. Sneakers is a suspense movie done in the history of the truly great suspense movies, and you wind up being able to relate to it even now.

What you should know is that the language in this movie can be coarse, and let’s face it some of this stuff is considered a felony. Add to it a handful of suggestive comments, and you see why this movie got a PG-13 rating. Truth be told, if you can catch it on television or through the Clean Films service you won’t hear any of it. That’s the nice part about Sneakers. The language might be termed “adult”, but with a handy edit you’ll never miss it. Maybe that’s the sneakiest part of all.

-Jenn Untch
Liberty, Missouri
jennuntch@yahoo.com
Is there a movie you’d like me to review? Let me know!

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