The Net (1995) — Have you heard about this internet thing?

“We’re sitting on the most perfect beach in the world, and all we can think about is-” “Where I can hook up my modem?” “Yeah.”

Justin’s rating: Shout “SANDRA!” every time the camera is shoved right into her face

Justin’s review: 1995 was really a singular moment in the history of technology. At least in my head, this was the year that the internet took off in popular culture, with everyone all ga-ga over the “world wide web” and the “information superhighway” and custom-made websites like Mutant Reviewers that vomited animated GIFs everywhere. Everyone was in love with all of this connectivity and possibility, but nobody quite knew what it would turn out to be.

It’s no surprise to me, then, that 1995 delivered two movies that looked at the possibilities and pitfalls of the online world. Hackers was more of a goofy teen heist, while The Net took the tried-and-true conspiracy movie formula and injected a whole lot of tech buzzwords to capitalize on the trend. The former was flashy and silly, while the second was more like an after school special warning you about how your online identity will surely be stolen.

But hey, both had cute hackers and acted as a museum to preserve this unique moment in time, so I harbor no ill will toward either.

Sandra Bullock plays Angela, a socially isolated — yet lovingly adorkable — computer expert who fixes Wolfenstein 3D and collects viruses for her friends. She then ends up with a powerful security program called Gatekeeper that actually creates a backdoor for a nasty company to use to gain access and control to computer systems that install it.

Angela quickly realizes she’s touched upon something that she shouldn’t, probably about the time that contract killers are popping out of every bush and evil hackers are changing her online identity so that law enforcement thinks she’s a criminal. Now it’s on — will the bad guys eliminate this loose end, or will Angela use her mad haxxor skillz to turn the tables and uncover the conspiracy once and for all?

I’ll admit, the conspiracy plot isn’t the best you’ll ever see. It’s not really the type of movie I go for, unless there’s a heckuva hook elsewhere. For The Net, it used to be how cool all of this tech is — now, the hook is how beautifully antiquated all of these tech references are. If you want a movie where Sandra Bullock uses all sorts of really old websites for basic services and hear people talk about the internet as if it’s an unknowable higher deity, this is totally your bag.

Still, I prefer Hackers. It’s simply more fun with far more colorful characters that treats the blossoming online world as a thrilling one to be explored rather than feared. It’s a shame that there wasn’t a sequel crossover between these two franchises, with Dade and his crew coming to help Angela the next time she got her identity hijacked.

Didja notice?

  • Mid-90s flip cellphones
  • Neat camera descent through a skylight
  • Wolfenstein 3D!
  • PIZZA.NET. Because who needs to call on a phone, am I right? Also, $14 for a pizza in 1995 seems high.
  • Ahaha fireplace screen saver
  • Websites in 1995 were horribly tacky
  • There’s no way that a pilot wouldn’t have seen the warning lights on tall chimneys like that
  • “I just told you that your friend is dead, but hey, try to have a good vacation!”
  • You know some Hollywood suit figured that if they talked about computers and got Sandra Bullock into a bikini, the geeky boys would come in
  • A laptop on a beach makes you a hacker
  • He’s been walking around with a gun all night and she never noticed even as she’s snuggling up with him?
  • He used his pistol to shoot once or twice and then feels like he needs to reload
  • “WHO AM I?”
  • Mexican doctors like to smoke in front of their patients
  • Yeah just shout her social security number out in the open

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