Computers are a part of just about everything now and almost everyone has one but that wasn't always the case. Before computers became common, there was a lot of fear about them having too much control. WarGames, a movie made in 1983, explored those fears.
Teenager David Lightman was a computer hacker who was able to get into basically any computer system he wanted. He demonstrated that to Jennifer when he accessed the high school's computer system and changed her grade. David, thinking he had found his way into the computer system for a game company, actually hacked into a government war computer that controlled the country's nuclear weapons.
David and Jennifer, thinking it is a new computer game, pick targets in the country to be hit by weapons before abruptly ending the connection. The defense department, including Dr. John McKittrick and General Jack Beringer, believed that the country was under attack. When David realized what was going on, he turned to Dr. Stephen Falken, the man who had originally designed the program for the computer in an effort to stop a potential nuclear war.
WarGames started off showing a failed launch test and explaining how several of the men at the missile silos couldn't follow orders to launch the missiles. The government decided to take the human element out of the equation and have a computer be responsible for launching the missiles if it came to that. The justification was that if the country was under attack, there wouldn't be time for a man to have doubts about what he was supposed to do. Unfortunately, they failed to take into consideration what they would do if the computer was set to launch the missiles with no way to stop it. The majority of the movie was focused on that and how the characters were going to deal with that situation once they realized what was really going on.
I didn't feel like there was anything that complicated about the plot for WarGames even though a few different things were going on. It was easy to follow what was going on. There was a little bit of mystery connected to what was going on that didn't take that long to resolve. I did feel like several scenes had a decent amount of suspense, especially later in the movie. Certain things that happened were rather predictable, but the movie was still very entertaining overall. The first several scenes connected to why the computer was put in control of the missiles did have a slower pace which might bother some people.
Computers played a huge part in the plot of WarGames. When the movie was made in 1983, computers were mostly just used for businesses and many people didn't have a clue how they worked. The computers from that time tended to be huge, sometimes taking up entire rooms. Very few people actually had their own computer and even those personal computers tended to be big. I believe that the computers depicted in the movie were considered state of the art at the time the movie was made. Everything connected to the computers was very dated, especially the look of the system David had and how he would connect to other computer systems by actually dialing a number on the telephone and then putting the receiver in a device. It did seem a little odd that David would have had such a system as a teenager at that time since it wasn't common at all. It did seem like his parents just gave him whatever he wanted in that regard and didn't concern themselves with what he did with it.
Computers being responsible for so many things was a very real fear for some people when WarGames was made. People were very uncomfortable with that idea and even afraid that something would go wrong and the computers could somehow take over things they weren't really supposed to. I can't remember exactly when I first saw this movie, but I think it was a few years after it was made. I wasn't that old at the time and I was freaked out by the idea of a computer being able to do what the one in the movie did. I felt that aspect of the movie was very believable. As computers become more advanced and do more and more, some people still have concerns about them doing so much.
Jennifer and David were in the same biology class but didn't seem to be friends when WarGames started. Jennifer made the effort to talk to him after they had both gotten into some trouble in class and he decided to show off his hacking abilities by changing her grade. He also showed off her by hacking into an airline and reserving seats on a flight to Paris. After that, Jennifer started to spend some more time with him and they did seem to get close fairly quick and she was pulled into the mess David was in. Not much concerning their relationship was shown, but they did seem to become boyfriend and girlfriend. Their relationship was rather innocent.
David was an intelligent teenager who didn't apply himself at school. His hacking ability allowed him to hide that from his parents since he would just go into the school computer and change his grades. It did wonder how he learned all the hacking things since that wasn't explained. He was a little cocky at times but was a good kid overall. Matthew Broderick was good in the part. Jennifer turned up in several scenes without having that much to do really. She was usually just around to be impressed by David's computer skills, though she was concerned about him when they figured out what was going on. Ally Sheedy was fine, though nothing special in the part. David's parents were only briefly shown, so they really didn't have anything to do.
Dr. John McKittrick worked for the defense department. He actively lobbied to get the computer put in control of the missiles. He had no problem relying on the computer for those things. Based on some of the things he did, he didn't seem to be as smart as someone in that position should be. Dabney Coleman was fine in the part. General Beringer didn't like the idea of the computer taking over the missile control, but he was dealing with it and got to the point where he was making other decisions based on the computer. He did seem overbearing at times. Barry Corbin was fine in the part.
Dr. Stephen Falken wasn't in much of the movie, but he was very important to what was going on because he deigned the programming for the computer. He had found a way to make the computer learn and become self aware. Dr. Falken had other issues he had been dealing with which had caused him to lead a more secluded life. John Wood was fine in the part.
Matthew Broderick - David
Dabney Coleman - Dr. John McKittrick
Barry Corbin - General Beringer
Ally Sheedy - Jennifer
John Wood - Dr. Stephen Falken
Directed by John Badham
A 25th anniversary DVD for WarGames was released earlier in 2008. I recently picked that version up. I think it had been previously released on DVD. My copy has the widescreen version of the movie. The special features include some featurettes on hacking and computers that I haven't had a chance to watch yet.
Certain aspects of WarGames are dated now, but the movie is still very entertaining and works well overall as a thriller. I think the movie is still worth watching.
This review is part of CaptainD's 2008 Good Movie Write Off.
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