The Net

Caught by the title? Good, that was the idea. Although what the film itself has directly to do with the WWW or the NET remains foggy at best. It could have been made years ago and called Computer Cage or Murder by Modem and still have had the same story line. In fact, the ill-received, but more exciting Capricorn One from 1978 comes very close in different ways to this "modern" story line.

Sandra Bullock has had a fruitful year and finally moved into the ranks of the "discovered", but it seems a pity that her talents have only succeeded in transporting her from a speeding bus to a runaway trail where she once more takes the opportunity to display her capacity as a firm, but fragile female who must ultimately save the day and her own neck into the bargain.

She plays Angela Bennett, a top analyst who irons out bugs and tracks down viruses for Cathedral Systems. (Please note the subtle symbolism of both her first name as well as that of the company she works for. Perhaps something evil is afoot?) She comes into possession of a computer-diskette that some people would kill for; in fact they often do. Blind to the complicity around her, she slowly becomes aware of imminent danger after discovering that someone has removed every trace of her true existence and reestablished her computer record persona as a known criminal.

Racing full throttle on the path toward survival she manages to wind up in the arms of a killer as well as getting an ex-lover killed along the way. This girl may be a computer genius, but she's not too clever. She attempts to escape both detection and her pursuer during the final chase scene by disappearing among 2,000 marching AIDS demonstrators and moving with the crowd (in the opposite direction). Clever, eh?

Renowned English actor Jeremy Northam and political satirist Dennis Miller don't fare much better in their roles. Could it be that the script and direction are too concerned with action despite the acting talents available?

Irwin Winkler, the producer behind such memorable films as "Raging Bull," The Right Stuff," "GoodFellas," and "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", has been directing as well since 1989, making his debut in this area "Guilty by Suspicion". On the other hand, his collaborations with Scorsese, Boorman, Tavernier, Pollack, and Costa-Gavras, Alan Pakula and Phillip Kaufman have turned out some pretty churning, burning, and searing stuff.

Of more than passing interest is the location chosen for the opening sequence at Haynes Point in front of J. Seward Johnson Jr.'s striking environmental sculpture "The Awakening". Are they trying to tell us something? The film deals with the issues of privacy, identity, and the dangers of electronic recording. Such potential abuses, however, are not as new as the producers would like to pretend. (Take, for example, the registration systems of WWII.)

Parallel activities and similar methods have been around for a long time; the wide-range use of computers has merely accelerated the abuse. The film, no matter how you look at it, remains your usual thriller movie fare; the issues do not succeed in becoming politically arousing.

In the meantime, on the more serious side, watch out for security firewalls and backdoor access. In other words, cover your ass.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett