It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Hackers" wasn't even in theaters before attacks on it started online. It represents a new genre, "hacksploitation," Mac expert Andy Ihnatko grumbled on CompuServe, adding that like a lot of other computer movies it achieves the neat trick of projecting images from computer screens onto the faces of their users, so that you can see graphics and data crawling up their chins and breaking over their noses.
This grinching illustrates my theory that you should never send an expert to a movie about his specialty. Boxers hate boxing movies. Space buffs said "Apollo 13" showed the wrong side of the moon. The British believe Mel Gibson's scholarship was faulty in "Braveheart" merely because some of the key characters hadn't been born at the time of the story.
"Hackers" is, I have no doubt, deeply dubious in the computer science department. It shares the common hacksploitation conceit that a kid with a computer and a modem can alter the course of human events with a few taps on his keyboard. As the movie opens, indeed, an 11-year-old named Dade has crashed hundreds of computers on Wall Street and brought about a worldwide financial crisis. For his punishment, he is ordered not to go near another computer until his 18th birthday.
Flash forward to Dade's 18th year. Now played by Jonny Lee Miller, he's hacking away again, and gets involved with a bunch of other brilliant teenage computer whizzes at his high school. At first they compete with one another. Then they discover they have a common enemy: the gifted but evil hacker, code-named The Plague (Fisher Stevens), who is in charge of security at a multinational conglomerate. He wants to frame them as a cover for his own crimes, which involve transferring large sums into accounts belonging to both him and his mistress (Lorraine Bracco).