When computer programmer Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe) used the term "open source" for the first time, I ducked. Why? Because I was afraid I was going to get nailed by some flying geek spooge. Let's face it: The possibility of a couple of repressed computer geeks blowing a load after hearing a germane computer term is substantial. To a hardcore geek, "Open" and "Source" are like the nipples on the breasts of Jennifer Love Hewitt.
While the filmmakers' interest in keeping this film's geekspeak real may have been sincere, the use of horrid film technique is downright pernicious. Either they've assumed that those with computer interests are too stupid to figure out a complex story, or they've elected to compensate for the use of the term "open source" by simplifying everything else in the film to a third-grade level.
And what a monumental hack job this is. Milo graduates from school and is recruited by NURV, where the Bill Gates-like Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) rules the software universe. However, Milo and his friends are committed to open source programming, which makes Gary the devil. Nevertheless, seeing an opportunity, Milo accepts an offer from NURV to finish a crucial project.
No sooner is he programming for Gary than his best friend is beaten to death by a couple of thugs who take a disc. Next thing you know, Gary is handing this code to Milo and telling him to run with it. Then they sit at a table looking at a computer screen full of text, saying things like "Isn't that cool!" so we know it must be really good code. Naturally, Milo suspects Gary immediately and sets out to prove that he's nothing more than a murderer and a thief.
Here's an example of just how subtle this film is: Before we even know Gary is up to something, he hands Milo some code and walks away. The camera pans to a television, and a reporter announces that some computer programmer is dead. Do you think there's some connection between the mysterious code and the dead programmer? Huh, do ya?
If director Peter Howitt isn't using manipulative direction, he's blasting that "thriller" music during every dramatic or potentially dramatic scene. This seems to have poisoned the cast. Tim Robbins looks like he just walked out of the William Shatner school of overacting. Rachel Leigh Cook shows up as a NURV co-worker. Once again dressed in black with too much make-up, Cook couldn't scream typecasting louder if she strapped a neon sign to her forehead. Frankly, if splitting Microsoft into a dozen little bits will inspire people to stop making films like this one, I'm all for it.
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