It's phishers, Doctor Jones!

The new film Firewall is the latest in a long line of Hollywood hacker movies. But how do they rate in terms of accuracy and entertainment value?
Written by Ella Morton, Contributor on

March 2 sees the Australian release of Firewall, a thriller in which Harrison Ford portrays a bank security expert with a talent for creating "infallible theft-proof financial computer systems".

While reviews suggest it's a steaming pile of hackneyed schlock, I do plan to get along to my local Hoyts when it comes out, if only to evaluate its tech verisimilitude.

Good old Han Solo has been spruiking the flick in Australia over the last few days, appearing in a rather awkward interview on Rove Live and getting a bit shirty at a press conference when questioned about his longevity as an action hero in light of the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Zimmer Frame.

Whenever actors have films to plug, they tend to get all experty on the subject matter the movie explores. My favourite Ford quote regarding Firewall is from this interview:

Make it not about computers. Make it about people. The computer's a mechanism. The story involves people. People's emotions. People's understanding. People's gaming knowledge. People's attention.

You tell 'em, Indy. Although that gaming thing seemed a little left field.

Let's face it -- Hollywood doesn't have a great track record when it comes to portraying hackers, techno-heists and computer geekery. Judging by this review, which points out that in the film "the entire western half of the state of Washington seems to be serviced by a gigantic wireless hub", Firewall looks set to join Hackers, The Net and Swordfish in the Laughably Inaccurate Tech Films pantheon.

Let's take a look back...

Hackers (1995)
Tagline: You thought your secrets were safe. You were wrong.

Token hot chick: Liptastic Angelina Jolie as Kate "Acid Burn" Libby makes reflux look sexy.

Choice quote: "We are Samurai...the Keyboard Cowboys...and all those other people who have no idea what's going on are the cattle....Moooo."

Tech dodginess factor: Pretty darn high, despite the fact that Eric "Emmanuel Goldstein" Corley, the founder of 2600: The Hacker Quarterly served as a creative advisor.

Entertainment factor: Bombing at the cineplexes then going on to achieve cult status on video, Hackers is enjoyable in an ironic way. As a fan points out on rottentomatoes.com, "it's gems like 'They're in the kernel!' and 'Download your file' that make it worth watching for the comical value alone." Very cool soundtrack, too.

The Net (1995)
Tagline: Her driver's licence. Her credit cards. Her bank accounts. Her identity. DELETED.

Token hot chick: Speed queen Sandra Bullock as a reclusive software engineer. I know, I know...

Choice quote: "No one leaves the house anymore. No one has sex. The Net is the ultimate condom."

Tech dodginess factor: This is the film that would have you believing that malicious hackers throughout the world are hell-bent on messing with people's identities and making planes fall out of the sky. Too bad that the majority of mischief that happens in the movie is actually impossible.

Entertainment factor: 11 years after its release, it's an amusing reminder of how technophobia arose in those pre-Y2K bug times.

Swordfish (2001)
Tagline: Log on. Hack in. Go anywhere. Steal everything.

Token hot chick: Bond girl Halle Berry, who famously revealed her breasts for no apparent (plot-related) reason.

Choice quote: "If you think this Prada-sporting, Armani-clad, silicone-augmented, Anime-femme fatale thing is gonna make me lose my head and start singing 'Hackers of the world unite,' then apparently you're not experiencing the same acid shortage as the rest of us."

Tech dodginess factor: The hacking is achieved way too easily to be realistic, but as wired.com points out, it gets props for distinguishing between hackers and crackers.

Entertainment factor: If you're into mindless violence, sex and stuff blowing up, you'll probably dig it. I can't speak objectively due to my low John Travolta tolerance.

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