Note #1: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the views of other site members.
Note #2: SPOILERS ahead.
“I heard what sounded like a cocktail party.”
In this age of surveillance, of Bradley Manning’s prison sex change, the Julian Assange rape charges (“just the tip?”), the Edward Snowden debacle, and other strange goings on in the shadowy world above the realm of mortal liquor store clerks, humble frog owners, and deadbeat Canadian dads I think it is fitting that we should look back on the sterling piece of Hollywood output from the nineteen nineties that tells the story of the secretive and crack units operating at the upper echelons of the United States government. Yes, Sneakers (1992).
The coterie of miscellany oddballs and the ripped from the headlines story made Sneakers a box office hit. At its heart it’s the story of some counterculture brats who overplayed their hand, back when the girls were easy lays and McGovern was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The whiskey flowed, the cigarettes burned with certainty, get on the bus everybody! Down with Nixon! Douchebags writ large, in other words.
Robert Redford – avowed Communist – is the protagonist here. He and Ben Kingsley are young hackers hacking away at some computer systems that they shouldn’t be at an elite college. Probably an Ivy. Who knows any more? Redford goes out for a pizza and the feds bust in on Kingsley who is committing a bunch of crimes with full knowledge of his actions and they carry him off to the slammer. You know how the law be. About they business from time to time. Crime and punishment. Wild shit.
Kingsley goes away to jail and Redford goes on the lamb like these god damn Communists are always doing. In fact, Redford made another movie recently about a bunch of domestic left-wing terrorists loosely based on the Weather Underground from the 60s casting them as the heroes. Really! That movie was called The Company You Keep. Direct line anti-US government, Saul Alinsky, Robert Redford, Obama. Wow. Whatever. My head hurts.
Maybe they’re right though. I don’t know. You know how these rich people get excited about things. For instance here’s Redford recently complaining about Sundance getting too big like a big old sad baggy hipster.
Anyway, back to Sneakers. Thirty years after Kingsley gets arrested and Redford has scratched out a swanky new life for himself. It is Robert Redford I guess. His occupation is, he breaks into banks with hacking shenanigans to expose their security weaknesses – no really – so he’s making a living at that when suddenly his past as a domestic terrorist/American hero comes back to haunt him. The government is onto him and they shoehorn him and his weird auxiliary team of ex-spy nerds keep tabs on a talented code breaker who has some kind of ultra amazing algorithm that will enrich a bunch of people at the higher levels of the national security apparatus.
Unfortunately Redford doesn’t realize he is actually just a pawn in a larger game, and that the agents of the government who hired him to steal the new technology are in the employ of his old college buddy (Kingsley), who went away for years and years to prison for breaking a bunch of federal laws. Well they threw the book at old Ben K. and now he’s kind of bitter about it and blames Robert Redford to some degree.
After Redford and his nerd friends steal this box with the algorithm in it Kingsley kidnaps Redford and takes him to a creepy office park in the back of a trunk. It is here that Kingsley – now a stand in for the government itself – offers Redford the devil’s bargain: total surveillance with him and Redford at the controls, or he will expose Redford’s identity to the real U.S. government and let the federal prosecutors tear him to shreds and throw away the key.
It’s a hard choice. Fortunately it’s not one that Redford really has to make, because he and his nerd friends steal back the algorithm and destroy it thereby eliminating the possibility of dangerous surveillance technology from being implemented on the American people or the world 4eva! Yay Robert Redford. You did it!
There is a famous scene at the end where these American government guys offer the oddballs anything they want if they just stay mum about what they have seen. It’s very warm and fuzzy. I guess they have the feds over a barrel though so you have to concede to their requests for money, vacations, and boobs. Too bad. Does that sound realistic? Hmm.
Anyway that’s what happens in the movie SNEAKERS.
Now I feel like I’ve said too much and should wrap it up.