– WarGames is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –
WarGames (1983) Directed by John Badham
The paranoia and geopolitical tension of the cold war idealized in a supremely didactic family-friendly techno thriller. John Badham’s whip-smart WarGames never fails to perplex me with its expert tactical suspense, with which it graciously strives to weave a message warning about the dangers of reckless bellicose reactions in times of technological threats and rampant nuclear weapons productions. The vibrantly suspenseful screenplay written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes is about a teenage computer geek and amateur hacker (Matthew Broderick), who accidentally infiltrates U.S. Air Force systems, mistaking a real nuclear war simulator for a mere computer game. Frame by frame, our adolescent hero proves to be an exceptionally terrifying rumination on how belligerent politicians see war as an innocuous game to puff up their pseudo-patriotic hubris. The façade is persuasively Spielbergian, its zippy continuity that of a thrilling video game, and the teen drama cohabiting with the quasi-satirical trepidation of exasperated commanders in the military headquarters is sheer adrenaline.
This is the kind of film that rescues the best principles of the humanist film tradition and the banality of popcorn cinema and integrates them into its praxis with such audacity that it restores your faith in cinema. The super technology it showcases is obsolete, but the dependent drama we live with the unstoppable growth of the digital world in the 21st century makes relevant each of the moral dilemmas this film questions. It is profound without straining, and what is most delightful about its intellectual romanticism is that it is filmed as minimalist entertainment. Each section is painstakingly edited to concentrate the maximum amount of anxiety in reciprocity with profuse adventurous fun. Even the simplest aspects, like watching Broderick in energetic shots/reverse shots with enormous computers, becomes a gripping piece of flawless entertainment. Sometimes I think WarGames’ only – albeit redeemable – flaw is that it takes an inordinate amount of time to get into the middle acts and establish its ambitious story, yet the pretext of choosing caution for the sake of later verisimilitude seems satisfying to me. Once our sympathetic protagonist inadvertently opens the doors to a latent, possible third world war, the magisterial thriller methodology designed by John Badham mobilizes the plot not as an artist but as a true strategist. The ambiguity of its thrilling denouement remains a meaningful memento of Cold War psychosis.