You tend to forget how awesome this movie is.
I have a friend at work who is working his way through the thriller genre on Netflix, and I asked if he’d ever seen Sneakers. He said no, and promptly settled in to watch it, and started raving about it immediately.
Which made me think that it was high-time for me to watch it again. I hadn’t seen it in years at this point, but this film is one of those ones that when I watch it, I don’t watch it once or twice, it gets thrown into high rotation for a while.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who directed Field of Dreams and an episode of Band of Brothers (something else I need to watch again soon), Sneakers is a light, caper film that has some great dialogue, sequences and is undeniable fun.
Robert Redford leads an all-star cast including, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, the late River Phoenix, and fan favorite Stephen Tobolowsky (“Phil? Phil Conners?”).
Martin Bishop (Redford) is the head of a misfit group of tech and security wizards who make it their business to break into people’s businesses to make sure people can’t break into their businesses.
Right away, after a quick prologue that sets up Redford’s character, you get thrown into one of their sneaks, and you get to see the dynamic of the group as they work together, pick on one another, and rehash, what you feel are old, old arguments amongst co-workers and friends. It establishes a sense of camaraderie right from the start of the film, and you can’t help but buy into it and smile.
They get hired by the NSA (or do they?) to perform a sneak on an unaware target, Dr. Gunter Janek (Donal Logue), who may have created the ultimate code-breaker. It seems the NSA wants to grab it before the Russians can get their hands on it, otherwise the entire American security system could be open to them.
They recover the ‘box’ and then the twists start coming at you, as they lose the ‘box’, the NSA isn’t really the NSA, and they find themselves wanted for international espionage and murder.
I could rave about the entire film, but there are three sequences that have to be my favorites, the scrabble sequence, rebuilding Bishop’s kidnapping through sounds, and the slow-motion sneak across the room as tension ratchets up around the sneak.
The scrabble sequence, as they start to decipher Setec Astronomy with scrabble tiles, all while Whistler (David Strathairn) examines the leads of the ‘box.’ The cuts come quicker as they start to put things together, the people beginning to move about the room to join Martin and then Whistler, James Horner’s score, a series of piano chords, jolting you along with each new discovery.
The kidnapping sequence sees Martin thrown into a trunk so he can’t see where he’s going, so Whistler, who is blind, starts deducing and creating a soundtrack of the roads he traveled on to find out where he was taken. Watching the sequence, the way each option is eliminated as they puzzle their way along is incredibly well done, right down to the cocktail party at the end of the road.
And long before Ethan Hunt broke into the CIA in Mission: Impossible, Bishop and his team had to find a way to defeat a voice recognition entry point, as well as heat and motion sensors.
The script perfectly balances the cast, all of them have their moments, and it’s clear that they work well as a team, and it’s fun to watch them.
This is probably one of my favorite films from the 90s, and one I can never stop recommending to people when they want a thriller.
It’s an A-list cast at the top of their game, and while some of the tech is outdated now, the crux of the story, the control of information and who has it, is still just as relevant.
It seems they just don’t make movies like this anymore…
What do you think?