This week’s movie, Wargames, was paired with a cocktail I found online called a Whopper Shake. That’s all I’m going to say about the drink, other than to say, it wasn’t great.
Wargames is a 1983 film about a young computer hacker who finds himself caught up in a military nuclear war simulation turned real. It is classified as a science fiction thriller, though it may be closer to reality than that. The only real sci-fi element is the WOPR computer that decides, on its own, to pursue global nuclear war in the real world. The threat of war with Russia, the technology of everything except the WOPR, and pretty much everything else is based entirely on the reality of the time.
Wargames is one of those movies that I thought I’d seen, but after watching it I may just be remembering all the references to it over the years. If I did see it in the past, it was so long ago I don’t remember much, or I was too young to pay attention. It features a lot of early computer tech, 80’s military movie marching music, and plenty of feathered hair. The story and acting were all great, earning the movie 3 Academy award nominations, but I don’t think it would have been quite as good without Broderick’s charm and Sheedy’s enthusiasm.
The movie opens with a tense scene in a nuclear missile silo where a launch test reveals that a large percentage of the human operators would be unwilling to turn the key and start World War III. It sets the tone right away that this movie, despite the age of the stars, is not a kid’s movie. While it’s not inappropriate for kids, I think the story and message will have some elements that they won’t quite understand. It may even be a different experience for young people who didn’t grow up during the Cold War and the threat of nuclear destruction.
One of the weird plot points that didn’t sit well with me was professor Falken. Sure, at the beginning he’s ready to just call it quits and go out in a nuclear flash, but even after they convince him to help stop WWIII he seems hesitant. Falken looked like he knew how to stop the computer the entire time, but kept waiting for David (Broderick) to figure it out. Even when it came down to the final seconds he put it all on the kid to prevent the annihilation of the human race. It was a button in a bunker moment (Lost) for me for sure. It made no sense unless Falken was still suicidal and was just playing with everyone.
Despite that, the movie is still very good. A suspenseful thriller harkening to a time when the country was genuinely afraid of a threat from the outside. Perhaps a reminder that we once stood unified against the possibility of attack from a foreign power, something we haven’t feared in decades now. It’s a good movie to revisit, or see for the first time. If you are watching it for the first time, and didn’t grow up in the 80’s, try to imagine that the audience at the time truly believed that was a possibility, not just science fiction. Some of us remember climbing under our desks for the regularly scheduled drill, naively unaware that the piece of wood and metal over our heads was useless in a real situation.