This film was made around the same time as when everyone was figuring out how much Bill Gates made a minute. We were all fascinated by this computer geek done well. His story became even more interesting when he was accused of stealing ideas that made him billions. This film is clearly influenced by Microsoft and Bill Gates’s story. Tim Robbins is clearly using Gates and his Apple counterpart Steve Jobs as inspiration for his role as CEO of the computer company NURV, Gary Winston. He plays the role well, you like him even though you are well aware of his dark agenda.
What lets this film down is the rest of the cast. Ryan Philippe is not a strong enough lead to carry this movie. He plays computer genius Milo Hoffman, who discovers his new boss (Robbins) is monitoring other programmers illegally and stealing their ideas, sometimes leading to murderous results. Philippe tries hard, but you really don’t believe he could be a genius. Rachel Leigh Cook is in the same boat, I struggle to take them both seriously. Especially when they start using programming jargon, you just don’t buy it. Claire Forlani rounds out the cast as Milo’s girlfriend who may or may not be a plant by NURV. She’s fine, but doesn’t really have much to do. She does look about ten years older than Philippe, which is an issue when they’re meant to be the same age. It’s not a massive issue though.
What is most disappointing about this movie is that it is a really interesting idea. Bill Gates’s supposed story, whether it’s true or not, is ripe for Hollywood to use in a movie. The cast is not up to making this the epic it deserves to be though. Only Tim Robbins is able to do their character any justice, the rest seem to be very much out of their depth.
To be honest, I only really started paying attention to this movie about halfway through. It’s a bit slow to start. I’ve also never been a fan of Ryan Phillippe, and the thought of him playing a computer geek seemed especially laughable. So I spent the first 15-20 minutes refreshing my memory about US antitrust laws on Wikipedia, sparked by the memory of President Teddy “Trustbuster” Roosevelt from my AP US History textbook. (Has there been a movie about Teddy Roosevelt? There should be. He’s kind of the Bruce Wayne of American politics.)
Even when I did start paying attention, I just couldn’t get into the movie. The plot seems interesting enough (The charismatic owner of a computer company hires a young coder, Ryan Phillippe, to help him meet a big deadline. Phillippe soon discovers that the owner is stealing code from competitors and murdering them to cover it up. He devises a plan to use the owner’s own technology against him to broadcast evidence of the murders worldwide.), but the execution leaves much to be desired. Tim Robbins is great as an evil hybrid of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. However, Phillippe and Rachel Leigh Cook flounder as young computer geniuses. It’s just not believable that these two know what they’re talking about.
I wasn’t aware of similar antitrust allegations surround Bill Gates at the time, but I’d rather see a biopic of Gates. It would probably be more entertaining, provided it was written better than Jobs.