Re-Watch: WarGames (1983)

Director: John Badham
Writer: Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes, Walon Green
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Barry Corbin, [And if you can spot them: Michael Madsen and William H. Macy]
Part of: /slash Filmfestival

David (Matthew Broderick) is in high school, but his vocation lies more in hacking. And it so happens that, while searching information aboout a new game, he hacks into the recently fully automated nuclear defence system WOPR at NORAD, a nuclear missile station. Still thinking that he was playing a novel game, David starts engaging the system, leaving the people at NORAD in a panic, thinking that Russia is actually threatening to bomb the USA.

I hadn’t seen WarGames since my childhood. I quite liked it then – and it still holds up the test of time very well.

The movie has aged very well. Admittedly, the technology can’t help but feel a little ridiculous in its… clunkiness, but as the film is set in the 80s, it at least avoids the laughable retrofuturism that older movies set in the future generally have. So, it’s more of a laughable nostalgia of “how the fuck could you ever live without USB?” or “damn, the phone really has to get involved, hasn’t it?”

But the movie has a story to tell and it tells it well. The cast is excellent and they really stick to their theme – from the opening credits to the soundtrack, everything is very computergame-oriented.

It does simplify matters a little and it does get preachy sometimes. In short, if you want a subtle message, you will have to look for another movie. But as I agree with the message – succinctly summed up by WOPR as “the only winning move is not to play at all” – I could handle that.

And while the movie is firmly settled in its Cold War dynamics, it’s still a message that bears repeating. At least until (nuclear) warfare is completely abandoned.

Summarising: oldie but goldie.

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