I haven’t seen the movie “Sneakers” since I was little. When I saw it I remember thinking it was the best. It was one of the first thrillers I saw and enjoyed. Robert Redford plays a computer hacker who has become a security consultant. U.S. Intelligence agents blackmail him into stealing a code-breaking “black box”. After he and his team steal it, they realize not everything is as it seems. They stole it for the wrong people.
It’s an ensemble cast: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd,and River Phoenix among others. This was the only other thing I had seen River Phoenix in besides the beginning of Indiana Jones. As in good ensemble pieces each person is different but all their strengths are needed in order to over come the problem.
I also enjoyed watching the structure of the movie. I know it’s supposed to be a bad sign when you’re paying attention to how it’s put together instead of the story. I’d fade in and out. I’d remember the scenes as they were happening, amazed I could remember that much, then realize what beat we were in.
There’s a huge midpoint with a huge reversal. They’re celebrating after stealing the black box and realize something’s amiss. The company who made the box is an anagram for “too many secrets”. They’ve stolen the box for the wrong people to give to the wrong people.
The second half of the second act could sag a bit, like two ends of a bridge being too far apart, but you’re fascinated by all the little steps they have to take you don’t mind. Many have to do with the member of the team who is blind, Whistler. When Redford is kidnapped, stashed in a trunk and taken to the enemy, he doesn’t know where he went. Whistler asks him what he heard. By piecing together what he heard, they discover he went over the bridge and by the shore.
You also see a huge pay off in the end. At the midpoint the team divulges what they’ll do with their share of the money: buy a Winnebago, tour Europe, get peace on Earth. When they reclaim the black box the NSA finds them. The team now knows the box is useless on breaking Russian codes. The box would be used to spy on Americans and other U.S. Federal agencies. They blackmail the NSA. In order for them to stay quiet, they want all the stuff they mentioned in the midpoint. One of the sweetest was River Phoenix. He said he wanted a relationship with a woman. At the midpoint, it’s thought to be a joke. At the end it’s touching. He asks for the one female agent’s number. Her boss says no way, but she says, “You can have anything in the world and you want my number?” He meekly replies, “Yes.” He gets it. And Whistler asks for world peace and good will towards men. The NSA has to promise to make an effort.
It’s a fun movie and for a writer it’s nice to see things laid out. Structure always makes sense when other people lay things out and you see how one thing leads to another. It’s when you work with your own work you wonder what goes wrong.