Hackers

I re-watched Hackers a few days ago for the first time since I originally watched it some time after its release. A good opportunity to leave some comments about the movie.

For those who never heard about, here the basic premise. After a conviction for hacking as a child, which had a lot of consequences on his family, our protagonist is moving to New York with his mother shortly after his 18th birthday. And since part of the court decision was to ban him from using computers until that day, he takes up hacking again with a fervor.

At his new high school, he encounters a colorful group of young men (and a woman – Angelina Jolie before the Lara Croft breast enhancement. Did Mrs. Jolie get a boob job? I have no idea and I am too lazy to Google for it. I couldn’t care less) who share his passion. All is well and fun until one of them unwittingly stumbles across an evil scheme by the nefarious über-hacker, who uses his corporate muscles and law-enforcement contacts to get them busted and in general make life hell.

The plot and script of the movie are alright to unremarkable, the actors okay. What really makes the movie shine are two things.

One is the “pop culture” look at hacking. Of course all the computer terms and screen shots are gibberish and nonsense. This is not a “science fact” movie. But it still manages to present some basics about hacking – like rummaging through garbage to find passwords, social engineering and so on. Moreover, it’s a joyride of style and stereotypes. And while it presents the hacking scene in a nice setting for the average Joe, it still manages to be exceedingly stylish. The city of New York makes for such a wonderful setting, and the really cool soundtrack really enhances the mood.

Second of all, the movie does present some very valid points and concerns that in 1995 the producers and directors probably didn’t even consider much. Nowadays, certain actions are being overly criminalized and stigmatized, this is especially true for the Bush America and the conquest against civil rights. Now, I am the last to argue that malicious hacking should be belittled or not punished. However, a lot of legislature is going overboard – for example, if you find an open WLAN in the US and report this to the owner, you are liable for criminal prosecution. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t do anything harmful – maybe you didn’t even surf the Internet on their bill – you found the net, logged into it to verify it’s open, and already you are a criminal. This is sick – instead, the people who run open networks should be hunted down and fired for being fools.

Also, what comes up in the movie is the main FBI dude’s use of the T-word (Terrorist) to describe the youthful hackers. We, the viewers, know of course that they’re well-meaning people, and that they’re not doing anything dangerous. Yes, in the movie a hacker threatens massive damage via computer virus, which I guess could be described as a “terrorist act”; however, the law enforcement person used the term “Terrorist” to describe hackers in general.

It is this over-use of the designation that is a huge problem. Remember that nowadays, in the United States the authorities can just label you a terrorist and you suddenly have no rights whatsoever.

It’s propaganda, and it’s wrong.

Anyway, back to Hackers: If you can stomach a lot more IT gibberish than Sneakers, and enjoy the additional style, then you should watch this movie. It’s a lot of fun as long as you see it as the relatively light entertainment that it is.

I still recommend it with two thumbs up.

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