Dir: John Badham
Star: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood
Cert / Year: PG / 1983
Format: DVD R2

Would you like to play global thermonuclear war?

David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is an underachieving school kid who is more interested in computers than classes. He is a hacker changing his school grades and pirating computer games. While trying to hack a new computer games company he comes across a high security computer that he just has to hack. It takes him days but he finally cracks it and challenges it to play global thermonuclear war. Unfortunately this computer is based in NORAD and is linked to the US nuclear arsenal; furthermore it is determined to play the game for real. With help from his girlfriend (Ally Sheedy) David has less than fifty hours to escape from the FBI and stop the computer before it wins and plunges the world into nuclear war.

Ah the early eighties and the birth of the home computer. Remember when 340k floppy disks were the size of dinner plates and considered cutting edge. No! You were either to young, or busy playing Manic Miner on your ZX Spectrum. One of the major themes of this period was the fear of technology, and in particular computers. This was understandable because long before ease of access that is Windows (!) the only ones who understood how to use them were geeks and kids under 16.

Forget Lawnmower Man or Hackers this is the daddy. Along with Tron this was one of the original cyber thrillers, but where as Tron was pure fantasy Wargames is more of a reality based thriller. At the time of release this sort of hacking incident was making big news. It was a real worry, and although it's no longer front-page stuff something like this could still happen today. This is what gives the film its edge, and a pretty effective edge it is too.

There is nothing like nuclear war to scare the pants of an audience, and the script from Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes cleverly combines this with the computer theme (the computer theme they will revisit latter with the computer heist movie Sneakers). John Badham's direction makes the most of the computer countdown to destruction. This adds a nice pace and when coupled with the technology which was (for the time) unique it makes for an exciting finish. This is helped by Badham's ability to craft futuristic events and blend them convincingly into a contemporary story.

At the time of release there where no big names in the cast. However the film did provide a breakthrough role for Mathew Broderick and it almost defined his trademark boyish charm. Another relative new comer was Alley Sheedy in an early pre Breakfast Club role that appears to be more airhead than her demeanour suggests. Veteran actors Dabney Colemen and John Wood add major experience to the proceedings and round off a small but effective cast.

Wargames is a thrilling family film. The technology has dated horrendously but the premise is still as sound today as it was twenty years ago (although a little less of the cold war paranoia exists). It is a good story made in an accessible and exciting style, with the added benefit of a good cast. Occasionally it is a little too lightweight and simple but this is part of its universal charm. At the end of the day this is a fondly remembered extremely watchable techno thriller.

Wouldn't you rather play a nice game of chess?

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Very good for such a old film
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Fine but maybe understandably not well used
Features Audio Commentary By Director John Badham And Writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes
Triva and Production Notes
Theatrical Trailer
Verdict A good print of the film with stricty limited selection of extras.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home