Antitrust Movie Review

The "paranoia thriller" can be beautiful or an ugly beast of burden. Most often, the audience is dragged through the most obvious of situations with a knucklehead of a leading man trying to find out who or what has destroyed his life, all without being able to trust anyone or anything. American audiences eat this stuff up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

With heavy cynicism on the brain, I sat down to watch AntiTrust with a smirk on my face. Here's the story: A young computer geek Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe) lands a dream job with a large computer conglomerate, N.U.R.V. -- which stands for Never Underestimate Radical Vision. The company is run by eccentric, power-hungry Gary Winston (Tim Robbins) who needs Milo on his team to complete a new worldwide satellite communication program called Synapse, which will link all communication devices -- pagers, PDAs, and cell phones -- into one universal system. Leaving behind his dot-com family, Milo joins N.U.R.V. but gets suspicious when Gary keeps giving him discs full of code with no apparent author on staff. When Milo's friend is killed in a supposed hate crime, Milo begins investigating the inner workings of N.U.R.V. with the help of his girlfriend, Alice Poulson (Claire Forlani). During his investigation, Milo discovers exactly how Gary disposes of the competition, when of course, the dream job begins the nightmare he can't wake up from.

It sounds stupid to write it. It sounds stupid to read it. I didn't think AntiTrust would work because every "serious" computer-related movie always plays on the ignorance of its audience in the methods it uses to sell the idea of the movie, with unbelievable technology, interfaces, and the like. That was the main reason why Charlie's Angels and The Net were so stupid. I also assumed that paranoia thrillers had gone completely from being intelligent material like that in The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor into becoming Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer/Tony Scott summer action messes. I was wrong on both counts.

AntiTrust works because of a combination of strong acting, a smart script written by Howard Franklin (writer of Someone to Watch Over Me and The Name of the Rose), and deft directing by Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors). Tim Robbins puts together a wonderful villain that is reminiscent of his work in Arlington Road, another great thriller. He plays Gary Winston with the anger of Steve Jobs, the intelligence of Bill Gates, and the capitalistic zeal of Ayn Rand. Phillippe, Forlani, and Rachael Leigh Cook all deliver great performances in cat-and-mouse games played throughout the film. All of the characters are smart; none are cliches. The calmness of Milo and his determination to make good on the immoral actions of his mentor Gary equally impressed me.

While the cast is great, the best part of the film is the message it says regarding the capitalistic greed of Gary Winston and the altruistic motivation of Milo Hoffman. It's actually a surprisingly apt think piece about corporate power vs. open source.

Now, if I could only sync up my Palm Pilot with my Macintosh.

Check out the AntiTrust DVD if you're a fan of the film -- here's your chance to pause and deconstruct all that code that scrolls across the screen. Some of it's legit HTML and C, some of it's subliminal messaging about greed and money. The nightmares, the mightmares! Also included are a dry commentary track and making-of doc, plus a handful of deleted scenes that include the (lame) original ending. But in one scene Rachael Leigh Cook appears in a bra, so there's that.

A room of one geek's own.


Antitrust Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 2001


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