22 05 2013


Dr Strangelove is one of the most prominent and acclaimed Cold war themed movie ever made. It’s about a Nuclear Catastrophe which is initiated by a human error. To add to the damage, same error is reinforced by a machine known as CRM 114 which is originally placed to retard any human interference.And there is another machine in the film called “The Doomsday Machine”,scary as the name sounds,the machine is designed to “scare” humans from ever using a nuclear bomb.If a Nuclear Bomb is used anywhere in the world,the Doomsday machine would trigger the explosion of a nuclear bomb so powerful that it would wipe out the entire life off the earth. A rough example of an oxymoronic idea.

In WarGames, scenario is a bit different. During a surprise drill of a soviet nuclear attack, many military officials do not turn a particular key  to launch a nuclear missile(retaliatory strike), out of fear. This prompts the administration of NORAD to take the “humans out of the loop”. Thus comes WOPR,the supercomputer into the loop. WOPR runs on an artificial intelligence program which runs millions of Conflict scenarios to learn from its mistakes and thus find the best possible outcome to advise the humans. It’s all about winning the nuclear war.

War Operation Plan Response

Matthew Broderick plays David Lightman,an extremely talented but wayward high-school kid who moonlights as a hacker. When he scores a fail grade in biology, he hacks into the school computer and changes his grade to keep him out of the summer school.His girlfriend Jennifer (Ally Sheedy) also benefits from the same endeavor.Being a hacker,we wont see him typing mind numbing codes to hack into a computer,all he do is dial his phone and tada! he gets into school’s computer system.(Its way back in 1983, Remember those dial-up modems?). Thus our academically under achieving kid shows his true talents through the hidden and mysterious world of computers. During one of these adventures he accidentally encounters WOPR. WOPR starts talking to David and he gets intrigued. The Computer invites David to play a game with it.The game they play is called “Global Thermonuclear War”. David picks Soviet Union and thus computer is left with option of U.S as its piece. They start playing and Suddenly the the Big screen in NORAD lights up saying that Soviet has launched Nuclear Missiles.Then what follows is the thrilling part of the movie.

I want to play a game

“I want to play a game”

 The above said thrilling part is really not that thrilling considering that many such man vs machine-turned-villain movies has come since 1983. So passed time has faded the thrill and scare, the movie had in 1983. I said “scare” because I read some accounts of people not buying computers for a long time after seeing this movie way back in 1980s. During that time owning a computer was not really a necessity but just a luxury. And WOPR really gave them a good scare to turn down the ideas to buy this “wonder machine” back then.

Movie starts off brilliantly-underground steel reinforced bunkers,Missiles,launch codes,national emergency etc  but soon the grip loosens when the teenager makes his entry.There is the usual romance and immature mischiefs thrown in and those parts are really poorly written. Plot doesn’t  require David to have a girl friend.Ally Sheedy’s character roams around with our lead as if she is just placed to fill the screen space and yeah, maybe for that lip lock. Only saving grace in terms of character development is David Lightman and to some extent, Dr. John McKittrick.  (Dr. John McKittrick is the scientist who runs and maintains WOPR). Matthew Broderick as David Lightman has done a good job.David is portrayed as  genuinely frightened at what he did and he carries that grave and serious tone perfectly. But rest of cast’s acting is downright mediocre,the worst one is John Wood as Dr. Stephen Falken.

Broderick and Sheedy

Broderick and Sheedy

Martin Brest is a director who has directed some notable films which has want on to become blockbusters. Beverly Hills cop, Midnight run and Scent of a woman are some of his most successful films. He was supposed to direct WarGames but was fired during production due to some altercation with the producers. He was then replaced by John Badham who is noted for directing films like Stake out and Bird on a wire. Even though I am familiar with all these movies,I’ve been benighted about both these directors.After some quick research I found about a little more about Martin Brest. He has an interesting career graft,after directing blockbusters like Midnight run and Beverly Hills Cop,he went on to direct Scent of a woman which garnered rave reviews and got the lead actor Al Pacino his first Best Actor award from the Academy(after 4 previous nominations). the director himself was nominated for the best Director award. Then he hit rock bottom of his career after Gigli (2003) , it was rated as one of the worst movies ever made and turned out to be a bomb at the box office. He is never heard of since then. Not even a single movie. There is a reason why I am taking in detail about Martin Brest.

WarGames NORAD

WarGames NORAD

Martin Brest had a major role in envisioning NORAD control room before he handed over the reigns to John Badham. And that prop is so intricate with details that it was the most expensive set ever built till that time. And it stood out as one of the best things about the movie. And Brest’s version of WarGames was totally different from what Badham crafted. Brest’s version was more darker(According to Badham), something which the plot demands but Badham tried to make it look like an easy-movie with some wacky one liners and unwanted scenes. It’s like Badham wanted it to be somewhere in between a comedy and thriller,but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. What if Martin Brest had completed what he started?.I always have this inclination towards cinematic experiences which explores the dark side. Maybe that’s why I consider the What if scenario! 😀



1. WarGames contain the first ever cinematic reference of the term Firewall.

2.In the film, WOPR runs many war scenario simulations to determine the best possible way to win the nuclear war against the Soviet. Interestingly India-Pakistan war is shown as one of the scenarios through which US can possibly start a skirmish with The Soviet Russia.

WarGames India Pakistan

WarGames India Pakistan


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