It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I am writing this review on a word processor that is connected to a computer that sets the type for the Sun-Times. If I make an error, the computer will tell me. Observe. I instruct it to set this review at a width of 90 characters. It flashes back: Margin too wide. Now things get interesting. I ask it to set the width at 100 characters. It flashes back: Margin too narrow. That's because it's reading only the first two digits of my three-digit number. It thinks I said 10, because 100, of course, is ridiculous.
Computers only do what they are programmed to do, and they will follow their programs to illogical conclusions. Example. This time I tell the computer to set my review at a width of 10 characters. It does! Having read 100 as 10 and found 10 too narrow, it reads 10 as 10, and lets me have my way. I've outsmarted the S.O.B.
Sooner or later, one of these self-satisfied, sublimely confident thinking machines is going to blow us all off the face of the planet. That is the message of "WarGames," a scary and intelligent new thriller that is one of the best films so far this year. The movie stars Matthew Broderick (the kid from "Max Dugan Returns") as a bright high school senior who spends a lot of time locked in his bedroom with his home computer. He speaks computerese well enough to dial by telephone into the computer at his school and change grades. But he's ready for bigger game.
He reads about a toy company that's introducing a new computer game. He programs his computer for a random search of telephone numbers in the company's area code, looking for a number that answers with a computer tone. Eventually, he connects with a computer. Unfortunately, the computer he connects with does not belong to a toy company. It belongs to the Defense Department, and its mission is to coordinate early warning systems and nuclear deterrents in the case of World War III. The kid challenges the computer to play a game called "Global Thermonuclear Warfare," and it cheerfully agrees.