Home Arts Whiz kid saves the world, but not the movie

Whiz kid saves the world, but not the movie

by Archives January 17, 2001

In recent years there has been a power struggle between two of North America’s most discernible academic groups, the jock and the nerd.

Perhaps it is wrong to say that this struggle has arisen lately but I am sure of the fact that the battle between the two groups is approaching an equilibrium point. The question is who, if either, will come out on top and earn our stingy movie budgets and admiration.

Ryan Phillipe, the protagonist in Antitrust, exemplifies this struggle. Before Antitrust Phillipe was a morally uncertain gun-toting kidnapper in The Way of the Gun. Now, as Milo – a young computer genius hired to unwittingly help a corrupt technological organization – Phillipe has come to the other end of the spectrum into nerd territory.

Watching this movie, though, it is obvious that nerds are no longer the type of people we can scoff without fear of repercussion. The nerds are powerful and, dare I say it, cool. I’m sure that plenty of women would dump their hick boyfriends for a chance to meet Phillipe. We men don’t need to look any further than the stunning Claire Forlani (who is cast as Phillipe’s girlfriend) to see that there is something to this whole computer craze.

Antitrust provides the audience with a whole slew of tense scenes where Phillipe is either downloading IP addresses or breaking into hard drives while a security guard or fellow employee approaches.

This, I often thought to myself, must be a recurring nightmare for nerds. The world of the nerd is not guts and glory, it is of information and the speed at which that information can be downloaded. Therefore it is only fitting that a movie about computer code writers would have a quick and sneaky kid as the hero.

The Dirty Harry type hero has always had it too easy with the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’. Now it’s ‘think first, find out who the bad guy is and rat him out to the cops’. Where’s the glory?

Back to the movie. Gary Winston, played by Tim Robbins, is Milo’s boss who’s trying to create a worldwide network of a high bandwidth satellite connection between all computers. Winston says that we live in a binary world of zeros and ones, either you’re on top or you’re dead.

He looks weird (i.e. Bill Gates resemblance); he lives in a castle with plastic tubes connecting the towers, he eats an extraordinary amount of potato chips and yet never has grease marks on his shirt. He’s pure evil in nerd form. Robbins does it well by convincingly making us want to trust him but, since we’ve seen him in the ads, we know we shouldn’t.

Antitrust’s suspense relies solely on a soundtrack getting louder as a bad guy approaches. It’s plot twists are spelled out for the audience in the opening scenes. It seems that the director was making this movie for the 13 year old kids who are astonishing the business world with their .com companies. But if that were the case they should have let us in on some of the more technical aspects of Milo’s job than just to say that he writes code.

Antitrust does few things well. To it’s credit it is able to demarcate a time when nerds are able to compete with Gladiators for action movie scripts. Based on the number of people who have used a computer compared to those who have used a weapon we can easily see why a predictable movie like this might become popular.

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