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SINCE “Hackers” was released more than 20 years ago, the number of Internet users has grown from 25 million in 1994 to more than 3 billion in 2014. Do the math.
The term also is more engrained in our brains because of people like Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the National Security Administration accessing information about millions of Americans without their knowledge. And because of retailers like Target, which had information on 40 million credit card users stolen by hackers.
But, 20 years ago, computers remained a mystery to many in the general public, and the information on the Information Super Highway was sporadic and mediocre at best.
That’s why Rafael Moreu’s screenplay for “Hackers” and subsequently Iain Softley’s (“Backbeat,” “Inkheart”) direction gave this movie its time-capsule stamp for years to come. A lot of that has to do with Moreu’s extensive research, hours and hours of interviews with the hackers of the day. They included Emmanuel Goldstein, editor-in-chief of 2600, a hacker quarterly, and one of the film’s consultants. Unfortunately, Moreu was not interviewed for the hour-long, high-def bonus feature. But he gets credit from Goldstein and Softley.
“Rafael asked a lot of questions,” Goldstein remembered. “He wanted to know about the hacker culture. … He kept coming back and asking questions . . . he was really curious in what made a hacker tick.”
For those who haven’t seen the movie, or forgot it premise, it’s about teen hackers that try to outdo one another. That is until one taps into a highly secure computer at the Ellingson Mineral Corp. He doesn’t know he’s discovered a high-tech embezzling scheme masked as a computer virus. It has the potential to cause mass oil-tanker spills throughout the world. When the hacker’s friends are targeted for the crime, they unite to thwart the cyber enemy, clear their names and prevent an ecological disaster. Whew.
At the time of its release, it bombed. British film critic Mark Kermode thought it rocked.
“I was really surprised when nobody else did,” Kermode said in the extra. But Kermode is happy now with the movie’s “cult-classic” status.
“Cult movies cannot be invented,” he said. “Cult movies are made by audiences” in a way that mirrors hacking, Kermode said. People tap into the movie, then share their information with others, who then also get turned on to it, he said.
The new bonus feature is worth watching twice, in fact. That’s because of the making-of details it goes into.
Softley talks about his inspiration for the flick, having just come off making “Backbeat” in 1994 (a dramatization of the Hamburg, Germany, phase of the Beatles’ early history). Hackers like Goldstein and Nicholas Jarecki, a child computer genius who also helped consult during the movie, explain their involvement not only in the film but also with computers and hacking 20 years ago. And, a couple of the actors come back to relive some of those movie-magic moments. They include: Matthew Lillard (“Cereal Killer”), Fisher Stevens (“The Plague”) and Penn Jillette (Hal).
Unfortunately, stars Angelina Jolie (Kate) and Jonny Lee Miller (Dade) do not make appearances. These were early films in both of their careers, and marked the launching point for Jolie’s first marriage. The Miller-Jolie union only lasted three years.
As for the rest of the extra, divided into three parts, “Our World Now,” the “Beauty of the Baud” and “You Can’t Stop Us All,” you learn about costuming, miniature computer memory boards, stop-motion filming, New York City sets and more. As the saying goes, “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.”
Thanks to the brains behind “Hackers” for making a trip back in time entertaining and realistic. And to those who put together a fantastic look back.