Broderick Risks War
Back in the days when tape drives, 5 1/4 floppies and modem couplers were high tech the movie "WarGames" came along with a story which played on audience's fears over technology with a computer with a mind of its own about to start World War III. The thing is that back in the 80s when I was a teenager and watched "WarGames" for the first time none of that fear aspect presented itself, instead there was this imaginative story of a teenager who accidentally hacks into a Government computer system and inadvertently causes chaos. It's not until more recently whilst watching "WarGames" on DVD that the fear factor presents itself as that deeper side is revealed.
David Lightman (Matthew Broderick - Tower Heist) is a computer geek who thanks to his naive parents gets up to plenty of mischief on his state of the art home computer system, hacking into the school's computer network to change his test results and those of Jennifer (Ally Sheedy - The Violation of Sarah McDavid) who he is friends with. But David goes one step too far when trying to hack into the system of computer games manufacturer accidentally hacks into the new computer network controlling the US Nuclear defence system. And when he starts playing "Global Thermonuclear War" he almost starts World War III as the US Nuclear defence system starts calculating the best strike options on the Soviet Union whilst he finds himself taken in by government agents.
So as a teenager growing up in the 80s I loved "WarGames", I still do, but I loved it for all the high tech aspect from David's computer system in his bedroom to the imaginative aspect of him inadvertently triggering sodtware on a military computer to start calculating for war. It was all nicely put together and the whole friendship between David and Jennifer added a nice element especially when they go in search of Professor Falken who created the computer system before disappearing to a solitary life on an island. In a way the whole high tech aspect and some gimmicks such as a scene featuring a ring-pull and a phone box sparked my youthful imagination. In fact the whole other side of "WarGames", the fear factor didn't even reveal itself to me as I was so hooked on the high tech adventure.
But there is that other side to "WarGames" and that is the fear factor as back in the early 80s people's knowledge of computers was limited. There is the whole aspect of a computer system which replaced human interaction actually running itself with no way of stopping it from possibly launching America in to World War III with the Soviet Union. It preyed on those naive fears that computers could suddenly have almost artificial intelligence, making decisions on their own and watching "WarGames" on DVD now this side really shows itself.
Now these two sides combine nicely delivering a fun story for children but something which even now has a message for older generations over letting children have free reign on computers and smart phones. But it is fair to say that "WarGames" is also seriously dated, in a good way because there is a huge smile factor to seeing David's computer system with the huge 5 1/4 floppies and modem coupler. It probably makes children who watch "WarGames" on DVD for the first time laugh to see what high tech use to be but it also adds a touch of nostalgia.
As for the performances well in only his second movie Matthew Broderick does well as teenage hacker David. Broderick is instantly likeable and manages to play that mischievous geek character down to a tee. Alongside Broderick is Ally Sheedy who other than stopping "WarGames" being a completely male dominated movie has little to do. Her role as Jennifer is basically to be David's side kick and provide a little romance to the storyline. Together Broderick and Sheedy do well to play the movie straight but at the same time give it a youthful lightness so that it doesn't come over as dark or in the least bit clandestine with the likes of Dabney Coleman and Barry Corbin delivering the more serious performances.
What this all boils down to is that despite being thirty years old "WarGames" is still an entertaining thriller with enough drama and touches of humour to make it as enjoyable today as it was when originally released. Even though it is seriously dated and the technology on show is archaic there is something about "WarGames" which makes it get better with age.