Tuesday, December 26, 2017

War Games (1983)

War Games (1983): written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes; directed by John Badham; starring Matthew Broderick (David), Dabney Coleman (McKittrick), John Wood (Falken), Ally Sheedy (Jennifer), and Barry Corbin (General Beringer): This Young Adult Cold War thriller holds up remarkably well. Not only did it make Matthew Broderick a star, it influenced American policy on hackers after President Reagan screened the film.

Broderick is certainly believable as a young hacker (dig that early 1980's computer tech!) who wants to steal some video games and instead talks the Pentagon's Artificial Intelligence into starting World War Three. What larks, Pip, what larks!

The movie succeeds in part on the charisma of all of its main actors, from the prissy, pissy Dabney Coleman as the Pentagon's chief computer scientist to Barry Corbin (later of Northern Exposure) as a grumpy, salt-of-the-earth General, John Wood as AI-designer Falken, and Broderick and Ally Sheedy as our high-school leads.

But the writing is sharp as well, though Broderick's ability to escape NORAD HQ in Cheyenne Mountain requires a certain suspension of disbelief. It's hard to imagine a big-budget summer movie today ending as this one does -- not with a half-hour action sequence, but with a bunch of people talking to a computer in a room. John Badham keeps things moving nicely, and his matter-of-fact cinematography keeps things rooted in at least the semblance of the real. Recommended.

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