Lost Picture Show: Sneakers

michael dworkis uncovers an all-star laden lost picture…

Release Date: 9/9/1992

First Saw It: Rented it on VHS

What Drew Me to See It: Seemed like a fun movie

Starring: Ben Kinglsey, Robert Redford, Dan Akyroyd, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn, Sydney Poitier, and River Phoenix

Before They Were Stars Appearances: Mary McDonnell played Liz, the ex-girlfriend of Redford in Sneakers. Her true breakout role came a few months before with the film Dances With Wolves. McDonnell has been in a wide variety of films and television shows since then. She was the First Lady in Independence Day (ID4), Rose Darko in Donnie Darko, and her most recent TV roles include the police captain in The Closer and President Roslin in a little sci-fi series called Battlestar Galactica.

One would be surprised to learn that David Strathairn would be in both A League of Their Own and Sneakers in the same year. Following those films he landed roles in The Firm, L.A. Confidential, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and one of my all-time favorite films, Strathairn played Edward R. Morrow in the film Good Night, and Good Luck.

Director: Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams)

The Best Performance: Sir Ben Kingsley is one scary dude. Only seen in a few scenes during the middle of the movie and not truly featured until the final climatic moments of the film. Regardless, Kingsley puts one on hell of a convincing performance. Having been deluded all his life, he comes face-to-face with Redford who brings him screaming into the reality of the present day. The final moments of the apex of the film show how a man stuck in the past, bent on exploiting the power of secret government intrusion technology must cope with the revelations and reality of the present. I have to give Redford credit too, as his convincing arguments with Kingsley about privacy, conspiracy, wiretapping and the rights of all people, make for what I believe, to be one of the best dialogues in film history.

The Supporting Scene Stealer: James Earl Jones as an NSA agent shows up at the end of the film to negotiate a deal between Redford and his group in return for the black box technology which belongs to the government. Each member of the crew ask for something ridiculous like a paid vacation to Madrid, a Winnebago, the phone number for a female NSA agent, and of course, peace on earth. With each request Jones flips out, which is pretty funny to watch.

The Moment to Remember: David Strathairn plays a character who is blind, but can hear perfectly and has a perfect pitch (for sound, not baseball). They crew needs a diversion and escape route, so they have Strathairn drive a van and they give him steering directions while watching from a rooftop. This was close to being the groan moment, but something about this was just too insane to do that.

The Memorable Quote:  “Cosmo” as portrayed by Kingsley squares off against Redford in a war of words, and thinking about our current events, I think this quote from Kingsley rings true… “There’s a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”

The Groan Moment: Stephen Tobolowsky. Know who he is? Does Groundhog Day ring a bell? The nerdy computer tech guy with the social skills of a fire hydrant makes the perfect patsy to get conned by a pretty girl. It was almost too cheesy and too predictable. She makes him say specific words to record on tape so Redford and his gang can break into the secret facility. “Say passport, it turns me on…” Really? Granted I am sure there are people out there who can sympathize with the hapless fool. The film probably could have survived without this.

Why I Can’t Stop Watching It: The plot might have been considered too technological to be true for its time. Watch this film today, and one might think these characters are in the dark ages compared to modern-day computers. Consider the plot. Government secrets, spying, access and control of information…these are all issues which are still sensitive! With the advancements and widespread use of the technology and the internet, the plot of Sneakers seems quite relevant and while this was a film released 20 years ago, these topics of espionage and use of technological power were controversial then, and certainly controversial today.