1992, Phil Alden Robinson
Sneakers never pretends to be anything that it’s not. This is some lighthearted, escapist fun, loaded with a cast of Oscar-approved actors to give you an entertaining ride of a movie that exists purely as that. Seriously, the movie features seven actors in its main cast — two of them won Oscars and the other five are nominees, only one of whom hadn’t been a nominee at the time the film came out. It feels a lot like a precursor to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, just without the noir-tinged Vegas style of that feature.
This one is more of a throwback to the spy thrillers of the ’70s, just instead of cynical political commentaries it’s more focused on letting the audience sit back and have a easy, enjoyable experience. If that’s what they wanted this film to be then they succeeded admirably at doing so. Sneakers isn’t something that you’re likely to look back on and consider a favorite, or to look back on at all really, but it’s a fun and well-paced ride with a fine group of actors. Robert Redford stars as the head of a group of mostly former criminals who are hired to break through security systems in order to demonstrate the weaknesses in those systems. His roster includes the tech-savvy Dan Aykroyd, the blind man David Strathairn, the young Redford protege River Phoenix and the former CIA man Sidney Poitier.
When Redford’s character is blackmailed by some shadowy figures into stealing a mysterious black box, the group assembles to help clear his name, including an old flame played by Mary McDonnell. The plot is a little too convoluted at first, but once they make their way out of that first act and get more into the simple art of having a good time it really begins to sing and has a nice, measured rhythm to it that I found very enjoyable. Sneakers isn’t the kind of Hollywood popcorn piece that is going to be loaded with loud explosions and scantily clad women; it sets itself firmly back in the old ways, a more leisurely-paced and vintage good time.
Ben Kingsley takes on the villain role with an awful hairdo and a lot of resentment towards Redford’s character, and while I do wish that his character had been fleshed out more it was still a lot of fun to see the two of them interact with one another. Really, that’s what the film is about. There are some solid sequences of entertaining action throughout, but most of the kicks here come from just watching these fine actors engaging with one another. The group builds an easy, entertaining chemistry and it makes it a fun and comfortable journey through to the finish line.
Film #262 of The 365 Film Challenge.