What can we make of brainy nerd Gary Winston (Robbins) who fears his girlfriend is trying to kill him with sesame seeds she put into their Chinese food, or when he takes a quick allergy test at a romantic dinner by scratching his arm with a fork and rubbing some of the sauce on it? As a thinly disguised fictional Bill Gates a - billionaire software mogul - Winston is charming, powerful, and paranoid. "Anybody working in a garage can put us out of business," he rightly frets, and in a nearby garage, Milo Hoffman (Phillippe) and his best buddy Teddy Chin (Tso), might just be doing that. They're on the verge of a revolutionary communications breakthrough, which Winston's company - seeming a lot like Microsoft - also is working toward.
Winston claims his new global communications system will "link every communications device on the planet," and discourages competitors by announcing an impossible software release date (making his company seem even more like Microsoft). Thinking Milo and Teddy can provide a needed breakthrough, he invites them to tour his firm's campus in the Pacific Northwest. Teddy, who hates the huge firm, and believes code should be distributed freely, refuses, but Milo accepts, and, just as he's leaving, is visited by an agent from the (pre-George W. Bush) Justice Department (Roundtree) who's antitrust case against Winston makes him demand, "If you see something up there, do the right thing."
The movie has a moment you can savor deeply, if you see it: Teddy continues to work in the garage and has a breakthrough he summarizes as, "It's not in the box. It's in the band." When he's beaten senseless in a so-called "racist attack," and Milo hears Winston tell say the same line, Milo's realizes Winston will kill for code and to eliminate competition, which, Milo, is an earth-shattering revelation, as we see when the movie shows a berserk montage of remembered dialogue, jagged images, tilting cameras, echo chamber effects. Unfortunately, at that point, the movie degenerates into fairly conventional thriller material, with chases, deadly stalking, dark interior spaces, desperate allergy tests, and so on. Although at the end we're left with the idea that software code "shouldn't be copyrighted because human knowledge belongs to the world," the stirring sentiment isn't as persuasive as this movie could have made it.
Tim Robbins, Ryan Phillippe, Rachael Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani, Yee Jee Tso, Richard Roun
Bill Gates, Antitrust,
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