War Games (1983)

on June 03, 1983 by BOXOFFICE Staff
   Despite the title, "War Games" is a thriller in the Hitchcock sense, with more laughs than thrills and an emphasis on intelligent suspense over action for action's sake. With its resourceful boy hero and fascinating technology, it should appeal to teens but also to older audiences, enabling it to more than hold its own in the onslaught of summer movies.
   Teenager David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is an underachiever, bored with biology but turned on by computers. As he explains to his new friend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy), grades are no problem when you can dial into the school computer and change F's to A's with the flip of a switch. When David gets wind of a new videogame due to go on the market, he decides to log in and crack the manufacturer's security system so he can play the game before anyone else. But he accidentally contacts the NORAD headquarters missile computer, which was built to play out scenarios for different types of conflict, including global thermonuclear war. Not realizing what he is tampering with, David asks the computer to engage in a game of atomics.
   An alert is triggered at NORAD, where Gen. Bergerin (Barry Corbin) and computer expert Dr. McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) think the Soviets have launched a sneak attack. The "game" is interrupted-David has to take out the trash-but unknown to him or anyone the game continues its countdown toward zero hour. Arrested by the FBI and interrogated at NORAD, David escapes and heads with Jennifer to the island retreat of one Professor Falken (John Wood), who'd originally built the computer but, fatalistic about humanity's future, left the world behind. Falken is almost uncaring about the new turn of events, but the young people persuade him to come back with them to NORAD to try to stop the game before it's too late.
   "War Games" is a fun movie with big ideas. Director John Badham has a first-rate cast see to it that the pace and humor never flag, even when the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Broderick and Sheedy are charming as thoroughly modern youngsters more at home in the computer age than are their well-meaning but harried adult counterparts. The filmmakers' forthright stance on the issues of nuclear arms should actually help the film by generating critical attention needed to bring in a broader audience than just the arcade crowd. Word of mouth should do the rest, because "War Games," despite its message, is old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment that would rather make its point with a laugh than with a sledgehammer. FLASHBACK: JULY, 1983
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Tags: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Barry Corbin, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, John Badham, Professor Falcon, NORAD, hacking, computers

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