Monday, 31 May 2010

Code Monkey Go To Job [Review: Antitrust]

Cyber thrillers deal with the work of computer programmers and hackers. They walk a tightrope between accuracy and drama: without some concessions to the non-expert viewer they would be completely incomprehensible to the casual viewer, but too many concessions and they lose touch with reality: oversized fonts and "You've Got Mail" screens, typing in commands in plain English etc.

Antitrust manages this juggling act better than some films. It deals with the conflict between monopoly corporations and open sourcers: something that does get programmers' juices going in the real world, such as the authors of this message on the GNU website. It goes to great lengths to explain their concept of "free software" (it's like free speech - not free beer) and how it differs from "open source" (one is a philosophy, the other is a practical way to write software) even though most free software is also open source. As a Blenderhead I have to point out that many open sourcers are pretty idealistic too but I digress. The plot, in which software company NURV (uncannily Microsoftish) tries to monopolize digital communication and shut down its' free software competitors, is plausible. Ryan Phillipe's genius programmer does actually do some programming, and for the most part it all adds up and looks realistic. Naturally Tim Robbins, doing a Bill Gates impression, steals the show...

On the other hand, bypassing the security cameras by looping a tape from two days earlier is now standard practice for all espionagers - but NURV's security contractors thoughtfully added this option into their computer interface to make it easier. Thanks guys: won't be hiring you to secure my Skullcrusher Mountain hideout. I was also a bit confused by both Claire Forlani and Rachel Leigh Cooke's roles but I think I've got it: the one that he thought was helping him but was actually betraying him and may or may not have been involved in trying to kill him was also helping him all along, while the one he thought was helping him and actually was helping him turned out to be betraying him - but still seemed to have helped him quite a lot. Or did they both switch sides? Several times? By the end it had all gone a bit Deus Ex, and while this remains an exciting thriller, the sense of a real underlying issue sort of gets lost in the chaos.

4 comments:

Maurice Mitchell said...

Yeah, I remember this film and that the big "secret" was a huge letdown. My personal opinion is that it was going to turn out that the software would allow them to spy on anyone from their computer. Then, someone realized it was impossible, so they changed the ending. Good point. Open source is a huge can of worms even today, but back then it was a hard sell.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

I think I prefer your version: not least as it would have made a nice prequel to "1984" (no doubt the Asylum is working on "1983" right now...) Nice to hear from you -sfg

Dyeve said...

I've got the idea whith Deus Ex but I can't get up! :)) Sounds like a booring meeting...lot of dupicity inside. Can I change the name from „Code Monkey go to job” in Code Monkey get up and bring some coffe!?:P

The only thing from this CMGTJ „thriller” ( I didn’t have any idea about it in my life) is the way you described and regardles for how you written ( sound like immediately news - without brith) and I like that. But, I can smell from here that you are a little disapointed.(Why?) Maybe I’m wrong but its better becouse I can hear the beats of irish dancer. (lol)

:)

PS_ pls don't delete my comment :)) You know I'm joking..

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Dyeve your lovely comments are always welcome and the more insane the better! Actually the more I think about it, the more I agree with you that "Antitrust" would have been much better if it had had more Irish dancing. And a shark.

Code monkey like you :)