Wargamesi is an excellent film.
One of the strangest things about it is the incomprehensible duality of the script. On one hand, the teenager themes are superbly written in general, but especially so for the girl. What Ally Sheedy says, does and thinks as Jennifer is exactly, to a very fine point, what the teenaged middle class Jennifer would say, do and think. Such a fine reconstitution of reality in art is always satisfying, and always a point of justifiable pride for the creator. Her name would even be Jennifer, come to think of it.
On the other hand, the military themes are horribly, ghastly fucked up. None of the dialogue works, none of those people would say or do what they're depicted to say and do (there doesn't seem to be all that much thinking involved at all). That whole part looks like some B movie gave it to them.
Yet notwithstanding Lasker & Parkes' apparent intimate familiarity with teenager subculture framed by an apparent unfamiliarity with military subculture, the narrative tension builds. Viscerally, credibly. Engrossingly. Take the key scene, where the Imperial expert is trying to figure out the Republican kid, with the result that they each spook the otherii thus echoing the larger but equal problems the film aims to discuss. There's exactly nothing different in how military escalation works in practice.
The brief appearance by John Wood is cinematographically successful, what with his strange, crazy or just alien face lit by background lighting, what with his incredibly soft, incredibly reasonable "do the world a favour and don't act like one" open, plain, clear and unassailable invitation to corruption. It certainly seems like one of the best moments of US cinema.
The machine even is elegantly rescued in the only way available : it did manage to get the codes, but it decided, by itself and on its own, to not use them. Humanizing the AI might be silly, but when the alternative is villifying technology it suddenly becomes the perfect move. Because contrary to what white knights are taught as part of their castration ceremonies, perfection is not actually the absence of all things their myopia might identify as defects but something else. Something entirely, substantially else.
Much to his credit, John Badham tries his darndest to get as much tit as possible out there. Sheedy is never really naked, but then again given her age, the little actually seen is entirely successful and - more importantly - entirely adequate. That the teenaged whiz kid would feel her adolescentine blouses as a case of life and death, much like swimming, of instance, is perfectly understandable and makes perfect sense.
The treatment of technology in its practical aspects is also very good, and certainly much above the Hollywood stock in trade. Yes there's a spuriously blinkenlicthen-clad sarcophagus with logos painted on it etc, but that part gets readily excused as "the military" nonsense. The way in which subversion of computing system works in the practice of the film however is very exactly and very correctly reflective of reality - some guy who wrote the code left himself a backdoor, some strange quirk of personality allows human community to flower over the widest chasms, all that good stuff from a subculture whose history wasn't exactly written yet back in 1983.
You must see this thing - in the very unlikely case you haven't already.———
- 1983, by John Badham, with Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, John Wood. [↩]
- The Imperial points out that he knows the Republican had reservations for a flight to Paris for two, which is true. It is also a faux pas of colossal proportions, in that the reservations were idle horseplay trying to impress a girl, but the Republican perceives (perhaps wrongly) he won't be able to convince the Imperial of this, so he reacts defensively (by asking for a lawyer) which the Imperial interprets as an evident sign of his worst fears being concretely correct.
It is because of this, incidentally, that you can't have good, wholesome, ethical, noble, principled squares doing serious negotiations but instead are stuck forever relying on the fundamentally corrupt, untrustworthy, tainted debauch : the predictable idiot is going to fuck everything up with the best of intentions, which is in any and all worlds a worse outcome than being at the mercy of the whims of the actually capable. As people wiser than you long ago observed, coruptia nu va putea fi niciodata eliminata. [↩]