Mogul Geek vs. Ethical Geek in a Low-Key Technothriller

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Mogul Geek vs. Ethical Geek in a Low-Key Technothriller

Granted "Antitrust" (titled "Password" in Korean) will not be a thriller classic, but it is a suspenseful and cleverly written drama. It's also an interesting reflection of our times - up to the minute.

For starters, the film presents two sides to the ongoing questions of legality concerning information sharing. On one side are the computer hackers who go on rhetorical rampages, reiterating idealistically throughout the movie that "human knowledge belongs to the world."

These guys sound a lot like the real-life lobbyists for the popular music-sharing Napster program, as anyone who uses it or visits its website (filled with smatterings of "Speak Out!" and "Write to your Congressman") will note.

On the other side, is Gary Winston (Tim Robbins), a computer mogul geek who seeks to monopolize the market. From the part in his hair to his glasses, the character blatantly resembles Bill Gates, and there is even a recreation of television footage taken from the trial in which Bill Gates defended Microsoft.

The movie centers on the lives of a group of computer whiz friends after their graduation from Stanford. Being the most talented of the group, Teddy and Milo (Ryan Phillippe) plan to launch a start-up company.

But when Gary Winston, owner of the multi-billion dollar corporation NURV, approaches them with lucrative job offers, Milo decides instead to join the team of his professional idol. Teddy, on the other hand, refuses for ethical reasons and goes his own way.

Milo fits in perfectly at his new job, and perks like a Mercedes-Benz hatchback and new townhouse are a dream come true for him and his artist girlfriend (Claire Forlani). Neither does it hurt that he has a demigod-like status at work since none of the other employees entertain personal visits to their cubicles from the head of the firm, Bill...err...Gary Winston.

Due to the approaching launch date of Synapse, a new global communication system from NURV, Milo's schedule and code of confidentiality distance him from Teddy. Though feelings of regret gnaw at him, he remains committed and inspired by the goals set by the founder.

Amazed by the progress of the company, when Milo one day asks Winston where he has been getting all of his recent innovative ideas, Winston has a paranoia attack. Milo then begins to wonder if it's the stress of the job or if perhaps his dream boss is hiding something.

After Teddy is suddenly killed, Milo's suspicions of his boss and the company he works for become even harder to ignore.

The movie starts just a bit slow with an overdose of hacker stereotyping and a lot of computer jargon. There is also an uneasy feeling of a contrived plot that occurs when Milo begins to suspect his boss.

Presumably he becomes suspicious because Winston yells at him, but having a boss that expects too much of his employees isn't really a compelling reason to suspect someone of illegal activity. Perhaps it's cause for Milo to whine or be unhappy at work, but definitely not enough to justify Milo going around the premises like a member of the mission impossible team.

With the exception of that weak point in the storyline and following the death of Teddy, the movie picks up steam and doesn't falter once.

The plot is intriguing and presents a series of betrayals and unexpected twists in plot. The action of the movie is very low-key, but in no way diminishes the suspense. The climactic scene where Milo learns that he has been betrayed is particularly riveting, even though it only involves a computer monitor.

With a can of Pringles in hand, Robbins infuses his character with little idiosyncrasies that make him all the more convincing. However, the strongest point of this movie was Phillipe's character. "Antitrust" avoids the pitfalls of other movies by excluding the standard crowd pleaser scene in which extraordinary events elevate a rather ordinary character into hero-like proportions.

Like a modern day David, Phillipe's character retains a sense of his realism by maintaining his boyish image. He does not engage in brute physical actions or unrealistic fight scenes that would be out of character with his intellectual being.

Rather, he uses those gifts which are available to him - his wit, heart and knowledge of computers - to bring down the powerhouse Goliath and save the day.

by Joseph Kim

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