thatcow

Bill who?

Opening credits over html code - nothing terribly advanced, but still this is cool to see. Someone actually has an idea of a reasonable tech graphic without getting creative about what the general public will find accessible.

And then, arising out of the opening chit chat is the term "open source". That explains the opening graphics - this is really a movie for insiders. They don't even try to explain what open source is. Gutsy move, really.

The dominating presence of Gary Winston is immediately established. He's the Bill Gates inspired president/CEO of NURV, a monopolistic software company. The story is told through the eyes of a small group of just graduated programmers, all keen on that open source concept and ready to pursue some venture capital for their own project. Winston hires away our middle-class accessible hero, Milo, to join his company for a particularly challenging project.

Okay, so here's where this promising movie falls face down. Winston labels our protagonist as one of only twenty programmers in the world who can solve a particular problem. Now, this could just be his way of buttering up Milo to take the job, but there's no challenge of the statement in any way - it's just accepted. What do they say? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Sure, it's a movie, but they don't really offer any proof, just some vague blustering. If they'd offered anything, it would have helped, but even then, that's such an amorphous claim.

The next technical issue we see concerns the ability for our characters to look at a scrap of code and immediately understand and appreciate what it does. If you can accept that programmers of this magnitude might be impressed by code that fits on one page, there's the problem at hand - compression algorithms for delivering high-bandwidth streaming content to handhelds. Even without tech knowledge, that's enough nouns strung together for anyone to know it's complicated - that kind of programming will probably not have much of interest that wouldn't be understood without looking through pages and pages of code.

But at least they're trying right?

Well, it might not quite be enough. They've been stringing us along with references to shady dealings at NURV, which is fine - it's supposedly a gigantic monopolistic company, and such aspersions are easy to cast - and to believe. But in the tradition of Hollywood decision-making, these dealing get more personally serious to Milo, and we fade into the taut triller filmmaking style we've seen so many times before. In fact, this is not so much an attempt to capture a new story genre, but instead to use it as a backdrop for the story.

To be fair, they keep the details of the tech angle coming. There are some reasonable touches to keep the scope realistic, but anyone in the business will find a few odd decisions sprinkled around, making us wonder what schizophrenia is behind it all.

Without giving anything away, those pesky tech issues with the conclusion go from small to enormous. The good thing is that there is a core idea there that is pretty reasonable - it just gets blown a bit out of proportion in the standard Hollywood fashion.

Tim Robbins make a pretty good Bill Gates, er, Gary Winston that is. There's no doubt they're pushing for a resemblance there. They even stage the film in the pacific northwest.

I'm pretty mixed on this one. There's quite a few problems I have with it, but it's also the most reasonable attempt at a geeky tech movie I've seen. If only they didn't have to keep punching it up for the audience...

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