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Sneakers

film poster for Sneakers
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Produced by Lawrence Lasker
Walter F. Parkes
Written by Phil Alden Robinson
Lawrence Lasker
Walter F. Parkes
Starring Robert Redford
Dan Aykroyd
Ben Kingsley
Mary McDonnell
River Phoenix
Sidney Poitier
David Strathairn
James Earl Jones
Music by James Horner
Cinematography John Lindley
Editing by Tom Rolf
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release date(s) September 9, 1992 (USA)
Running time 126 min.
Language English
Gross revenue $105,232,691(Worldwide)

Sneakers is a 1992 caper film directed by Phil Alden Robinson and written by Robinson, Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker. It was filmed in late 1991 and released in 1992.

Contents

Cast

Plot

Martin Brice (Robert Redford), a hacker, has kept to his assumed name of Martin Bishop after accidentally avoiding capture and imprisonment for his activities in 1969, a fate that had fallen on his friend Cosmo (Ben Kingsley), who is thought to have later died in prison. In the present, Martin runs a tiger team of "security specialists" that use unorthodox methods of testing physical and electronic security for companies in San Francisco. The team includes Donald Crease (Sidney Poitier), a former CIA agent and a high-strung family man; "Mother" (Dan Aykroyd), a conspiracy theorist with unsurpassed technical skills and dexterity; Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix), a young genius; and Erwin 'Whistler' Emory (David Strathairn), a blind man with superb hearing. One day, Martin is approached by two National Security Agency agents, Dick Gordon and Buddy Wallace (Timothy Busfield, Eddie Jones), who reveal they are aware of Martin's former life. In exchange for not incarcerating Martin, they ask Martin to recover a "black box" decoder device that mathematician Gunter Janek (Donal Logue) has been developing for the Russian government under the guise of a company called "Setec Astronomy". Martin's team, along with the help of his former girlfriend, Liz (Mary McDonnell), is successful in retrieving the box, disguised as an answering machine.

As the team celebrates, they become curious to the box's function and begin to probe it. They learn that the box contains a processor running an algorithm that can shortcut the massive computational requirements to break certain types of encryption. This is hinted by the anagram of "Setec Astronomy", "Too many secrets". Martin orders a lockdown until they can return the device to the NSA the next day. When Martin and Donald meet the agents to exchange the device, Donald discovers that Janek was murdered, and warns Martin off after he makes the exchange. The team soon learns that Gordon and Wallace were never NSA agents, and that Janek himself was working on the box for the NSA. Martin turns to a friend from the Russian consul, Gregor, who is able to identify Gordon and Wallace as rogue agents. Before Gregor can reveal more, the two are caught by fake FBI agents, who murder Gregor and frame Martin for it, and then kidnap Martin.

Martin awakes in an unknown location to find his aged friend Cosmo. Cosmo, bitter over being abandoned by Martin, reveals that he developed ties with an organized crime family while incarcerated, using his hacking skills for their benefit, and has been able to escape prison, and is now planning to use the black box to destabilize the world's economy. Cosmo offers Martin the chance to work with him towards this end, but Martin refuses. Cosmo, in turn, uses the black box to connect Martin's past with his present identity in police records, and then has his men take Martin back to the city. Martin reunites with his crew and has them relocate to Liz' apartment. There, they call the NSA using complex call routing to prevent tracing and offer to recover the box in exchange for amnesty, however they become suspicious, hang up and decide that they'll need to recapture the box in order to have any leverage to avoid jail. With Whistler's help, Martin is able to recreate the route during his kidnapping to a toy company, a front for Cosmo. The team identifies Cosmo's office, its security features, and the route to enter it, through the neighboring office of Werner Brandes (Stephen Tobolowsky). To obtain the necessary vocal passkeys, the team convinces Liz to go on a rigged computer date with Brandes.

Though most of the plan proceeds without a hitch, Brandes becomes suspect of Liz' actions, and brings her to Cosmo, who seems ready to ignore Brandes' story. However, when Liz mentions the computer date, Cosmo believes Martin is at work, and locks down the facility, trapping the team, and then discovers the box missing. Cosmo tracks Martin to the building's rooftop where the rest of the team is escaping, and demands the box at gunpoint. Martin reluctantly hands over the box, and departs with the rest of the team, but they are long gone before Cosmo discovers that Martin has given him simply the outer shell of the box. When Martin and his team return to their offices the next day, they are surrounded by NSA agents, who demand the box. Before Martin hands it over, he ask that his record be cleared, which the agents agree to. Martin prompts the other team members to realize that the NSA will yield to any request to get the box, and they each request own personal desires, the NSA agent unable to refuse. The box is handed over, but after the agents leave, Martin reveals he took out the key processor from the device that contains the critical algorithm, rendering it useless.

The last scene is a television news report: the reporter announces that the Republican National Committee has misplaced its funds and entered bankruptcy, while, simultaneously, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and The United Negro College Fund are seeing record earnings, "due mostly to large, anonymous donations."

Gross

Domestic Foreign Worldwide Total
$51,432,691 $53,800,000 $105,232,691

Trivia

According to the filmmakers' DVD commentary,

  • "Setec Astronomy" was a real program the NSA was funding at the time of filming.
  • One of the movie's researcher's name was Bob Abbott, sharing the same last name as the movie's NSA agent Bernard Abbott.
  • An early draft of the film for Cosmo's secret office was conceived as a floating casino. The writers scrapped the idea, finding it too "James Bond-ish".
  • The final scene was re-shot for "about seven dollars," re-involving WRGB news anchor Ernie Tetrault from earlier in the film, who had reported on Bishop's friend Greg and mathematician Janek's deaths. After writer Walter Parkes faxed over the monologue, Tetrault filmed the closing sequence after the local 11 o'clock news that night and sent it back to the filmmaker.

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sneakers is a 1992 film that is a complex but lighthearted thriller about computers and cryptography, government and espionage, secrets and deception and betrayal.

Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Written by Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, and Walter F. Parkes.
We could tell you what it's about. But then, of course, we'd have to kill you. taglines

Contents

Cosmo

  • In prison I learned that everything in this world, including money, operates not on reality - but the perception of reality.
  • What's wrong with this country, Marty? Money. You taught me that. Evil defense contractors had it, noble causes did not. Politicians are bought and sold like so much chattel. Our problems multiply. Pollution, crime, drugs, poverty, disease, hunger, despair; we throw gobs of money at them! The problems always get worse. Why is that? Because money's most powerful ability is to allow bad people to continue doing bad things at the expense of those who don't have it.
  • 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!
  • I cannot kill my friend. [Turns to a guard] Kill my friend.

Dialogue

[Buddy Wallace and Dick Gordon reveals charges about Martin Bishop's gang. Wallace brings up Bishop himself.]
Buddy Wallace: And then, there's Martin Bishop...[looks at a folder while Martin has a blank stare. Wallace turns the folder to show it has no papers] He doesn't seem to have a past.
Bishop: [Walks away] I'm sorry, but I don't work for the government.
Dick Gordon: We do. [Shows a card] National Security Agency.
Bishop: Ah. You're the guys I hear breathing on the other end of my phone.
Dick Gordon: No, that's the FBI. We're not chartered for domestic surveillance.
Bishop: Oh, I see. You just overthrow governments. Set up friendly dictators.
Dick Gordon: No, that's the CIA. We protect our government's communications, we try to break the other fella's codes. We're the good guys, Marty.
Bishop: Gee, I can't tell you what a relief that is, Dick.
Dick Gordon: Change your mind, call us at this number... [gives Bishop a folded piece of paper] Mr. Brice.

Bishop: The probable level of security is very low. But if you guys don't want to take that chance just to keep me out of jail, fine, I understand, I'll do it.
Whistler: Well, Bish, I can't speak for the other guys, but I'm in it for the money, I don't care if you go to jail.
Carl: Me neither. I'm in.
Mother: Uh... could we maybe just go back to the "they might kill us" part?
Bishop: Mother, if I thought that was likely to happen, I wouldn't bring this to you. But there is a risk.
Whistler: And it pays $175,000!
Mother: I'm in.
Crease: You guys will be chalk outlines without me. All right, what do we need?

Bishop: [asking each team member what they'll do with their share of the money] Carl?
Carl: [breathing from helium] I'd like to have a deep relationship with a beautiful woman who melts from the very first time our eyes meet.
Bishop: We're not getting paid that much, Carl.
Carl: Well, you know, someone like Liz.
Bishop: We're definitely not getting paid that much.

Cosmo: Posit: People think a bank might be financially shaky.
Bishop: Consequence: People start to withdraw their money.
Cosmo: Result: Pretty soon it is financially shaky.
Bishop: Conclusion: You can make banks fail.
Cosmo: Bzzt. I've already done that. Maybe you've heard about a few? Think bigger.
Bishop: Stock market?
Cosmo: Yes.
Bishop: Currency market?
Cosmo: Yes.
Bishop: Commodities market?
Cosmo: Yes.
Bishop: Small countries?
Cosmo: With luck, I might even be able to crash the whole damned system. Destroy all records of ownership. Think of it, Marty. No more rich people, no more poor people, everybody's the same, isn't that what we said we always wanted?

Cosmo: You could have had the power.
Bishop: I don't want it.
Cosmo: Don't you know the places we can go with this?
Bishop: Yeah, I do. There's nobody there.
Cosmo: Exactly! The world isn't run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money, it's run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It's all just electrons.
Bishop: I don't care.

Bishop: Carl?
Carl: The, uh, young lady with the Uzi, is she single?
Bishop: Uh, you know, Carl. [sets Carl aside] Carl, this is the brass ring. Now you've got to think bigger thoughts.
Carl: I just want her telephone number, that's all. Please?
Bishop: Hey Abby, how about a lunch? You can chaperon.
Bernard Abbot: No, I will not do this. [Male NSA agents smirk]
Bishop: Hey, Abby, Abby, come on, now the F.B.I.'d give him twins-
Bernard Abbot: NO!
NSA Agent Mary: Wait a second. You can have anything you want, and you're asking for my phone number?
Carl: Yes.
NSA Agent Mary: 273-9164. Area code 415.
Carl: Thanks. I'm Carl.
NSA Agent Mary: [smiles while shaking Carl's hand] I'm Mary.
Bernard Abbott: I'm going to be sick.

Bernard Abbott: Are we done here?
Bishop: Not yet. Whistler?
Whistler: I want peace on earth and good will toward man.
Bernard Abbott: Oh, this is ridiculous.
Bishop: He's serious.
Whistler: I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
Bernard Abbott: We're the United States Government! We don't do that sort of thing.
Bishop: You're just gonna have to try.
Bernard Abbott: All right, I'll see what I can do.
Whistler: Thank you very much. That's all I ask.

Taglines

  • We could tell you what it's about. But then, of course, we'd have to kill you.
  • To trust can be murder.
  • A burglar, a spy, a fugitive, a delinquent, a hacker, and a piano teacher... and these are the good guys.

Cast

External links

Wikipedia
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