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Swordfish (2001)

17th January 2002

If a computer hacker can break into a US government slush fund then a $10 million dollar pay cheque awaits.
John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Sam Shepard, Vinnie Jones, Drea de Matteo, Rudolf Martin, Zach Grenier
Crime, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller
1
1 Hour 39 Minutes

Gabriel Shear is a top government agent with his own agenda. He runs an organisation that dishes out retribution to terrorists in their own countries. However, this requires large amounts of money to keep it running and there's a DEA computer with billions of dollars hidden in a slush fund. Unfortunately, the system is heavily encrypted and Gabriel is going to need the best hacker around to get his hands on the funds.

When his chosen hacker is intercepted by US immigration agents he approaches former hacker Stanley Jobson. Stanley has already been in trouble with the authorities and risks going to jail if he's ever caught using a computer again. He has a boring job and he can't afford the legal fees to get his daughter away from his ex-wife.

However, with the temptation of $10 million dollars and the chance to be will his daughter again it is a inducement just too hard to turn down. Gabriel only gives Stanley enough information, but the best equipment, to do the job. When Stanley is warned by the same FBI agent who caught him red handed in his last hacking venture, he begins to suspect that Gabriel is being more than economical with the truth and that he and his daughters life may be in danger.

The picture is bright and crisp with an above average bit-rate throughout the film. As the director mentions in his audio commentary, the film has been deliberately saturated in differing colours during the film. On the whole this idea pays off, with some effective results, but during the darker indoor scenes there tends to be large amounts of outlining and edge enhancements.

The sound is excellent with some superb use of the surround channels, especially during the initial scenes of the bank holdup and explosions. Once the shrapnel starts flying around the soundstage you find yourself ducking as it travels overhead. Even during the more dialogue intensive scenes the surround channels are used by the musical score and ambient effects. Once the action starts and the deep based soundtrack starts so does the subwoofer with some superb earth shattering LFE's.

Although the menu is scored the menu remains the usually boring and static Warner affair. However, the extras go some way towards making up for this. The director's commentary is fascinating and enthusiastic throughout and the alternate endings are interesting with a different slant on the outcome of the film. However, the version that appears in the film was certainly the best one chosen.

What is the obsession with Vinnie Jones? Whilst he has more than one line than his last film appearance in Gone in Sixty Seconds, he still swaggers and scowls his way around the film. I'm not sure how he gets rave reviews for these "stand around and look hard" roles. A piece of concrete can do that. It also seems that a hacker can get into any government computer by the random pressing of keys on some fancy computer setup. Once connected they are then greeted by an amazing array of 3D rotating graphics and alphanumeric characters flying around the screen. Whilst it certainly adds to the thrill of the film it's hardly realistic, even for Windows XP.

Finally, after the horrific events on 11th September, the idea of a covert revenge and retribution operation against terrorists makes this film so much more believable. The film is already superb, but with a storyline perhaps now too close to reality it makes it an essential purchase. Buy it.

  • Feature Length Commentary by Director Dominic Sena
  • "The Making of Swordfish" Documentary
  • "The Effects in Focus" Documentary
  • Two Alternate Endings
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • DVD-ROM Enhanced
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