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[personal profile] brainwane
I saw the Sandra Bullock thriller The Net at some point not long after its initial release. Yesterday I rewatched it with my spouse (who'd never seen it) and realized I remembered nearly none of it. It's trying to say something kind of interesting, and the giant technical inaccuracies and TV movie-level plotting/characterization/cinematography aside, there's still something there worth watching.

(This is a kind of successor post to my review of Antitrust, another Internet-centric thriller from a few years later.)

Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is a schlubby, isolated beta tester who lives in Los Angeles, works remotely for a San Francisco software firm, and is about to go on her first vacation in six years when her colleague tells her about a weird new virus-or-something. She forgets about it until she starts to get hunted -- the dude she meets on vacation tries to kill her, all records of her existence seem to be scrambled or lost, etc. All that you can probably get from the trailer.

Some disjointed responses follow.


* First things first: the specific technological mechanisms here don't accord with reality, but the core point here is right. Identity theft is awful and plausible, having lots of important digital records and procedures stored on not-very-secure internet-connected computers is a recipe for awfulness, cybersecurity companies make money off threats and scares, ruthless criminals can target one person over a network and make her life hell, and we have far too little control over our shadow selves stored as data in the cloud.

* So much here is about memory, forgetting, the need to be remembered by other people and for the emotional and relational truth of your life to be more important than what bureaucracy tells people about you. Bennett's mom's Alzheimer's prefigures this, but also, see the way that AIDS shows up multiple times. First, the undersecretary of defense cannot stand to be known only as a guy who caught HIV (presumably via gay extramarital affairs). And then, Bennett escapes her pursuers by walking through an AIDS vigil, where people remember and cherish the dead and fight anti-AIDS stigma.

* Dr. Alan Champion (played by Dennis Miller), Bennett's ex-psychiatrist, who slept with her (presumably while she was his patient), turns out to be the only person she can trust. It is so skeevy that he went to bed with her! The really charitable reading here, I think, is: in a world where nearly everybody trusts the bureaucracy, if you need to find someone who will break rules for you, you may need to depend on someone who's willing to break rules in general.

* Leonard thinks that villain Devlin complimenting Bennett with "Clever girl." (in a British accent, no less) is a reference to Jurassic Park. Could be?

* During the sequence where Bennett is logged into a computer in a cubicle at Cathedral, we glimpsed a screen that looked a heck of a lot like a Babylon 5 screen. I wonder whether any of the same effects artists worked on both?

* It took us like 3 hours to watch this movie because we kept pausing and working out just how implausible the technobabble/code bits were. Lots of the set dressing makes sense -- the books, the devices, the cubicle furniture, etc. -- but then you see an "IP address" like "22.757.99" or an email like "mcg@fbi.justice".

* Loved the giant software expo at Moscone Center, with signs for real software & firms like Borland! Based on the thanks in the credits, we suspect this was filmed at Apple eWorld.

* If you try, you can come up with reasons why it makes sense for enterprise software firm Cathedral to also make a Wolfenstein 3-D game ("Run Like Hell") and a band website for the musical group "Mozart's Ghost", and why one of her clients? managers? colleagues? working on the game could suggest meeting her for dinner in LA that night even though headquarters is in SF, and why a colleague would FedEx her a 3 1/4 inch floppy disk to tell her to go to a website, and so on. But you may run the risk of, like me, accidentally kind of shouting "ok, so you save the website onto a floppy" at like 7 in the morning and potentially mislead your neighbors into thinking you're having a very strange argument or making an improbable TODO list.

* Early on, you see the evil CEO on TV decrying the cybervandals as "praetorians". This turns out to be the name of the organized crime group, but I liked the "huh??" of just describing some destructive group as "praetorians" as a general derogatory term.

* We're supposed to think it's kinda weird that Bennett works remotely (and doesn't want to come into the office), conducts approximately all of her social life online with people whose locations she doesn't know until she looks them up, orders delivery pizza online, books her flight online, and takes her laptop on vacation.

* The glaring sunlight on her laptop screen on that beach in Mexico must be awful.

* The "everyone who learns about this dies" and the catwalk-chase-over-a-convention-center-floor climax reminded us of The Parallax View.

* I don't actually stand behind this, but: the alias name "Ruth Marx" hints that Bennett needs to both elicit mercy (which she gets from Dr. Champion) and overthrow an economic power by using her knowledge of the means of production (which she does by disseminating the virus onto the mainframe).
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