As one of the busiest UK script consultant’s I’m always watching movies old and new. There was a bit of a ripple on Twitter this week when Sneakers (1992) rocked up for free on Amazon Prime. It was getting a lot of love and not having seen it since the 90s I decided to re-watch it.
It’s okay and probably was getting nice sentiments expressed out of nostalgia more than anything. There’s a great cast – which apart from Redford also includes Dan Aykroyd, Sidney Poitier, a very good David Strathairn. The late River Phoenix has a small role, as does Ben Kingsley (who takes small bites from the scenery with relish).
This is a film about computer hacking and back in 1992 this will have been quite novel, in many ways it hasn’t aged that much, and the plot kind of still stands up. There’s a little bit of suspense, but the film is too good natured, and too much of a heist /caper film to have any real genuine threat. So, that leaves the comedy…
The comedy is gentle and a little pedestrian, but the film has one truly great comedic line from Ben Kingsley (about computer dating) that still rings very true today. It got a belly laugh from me.
Overall, it’s a good Sunday afternoon film, not too demanding, and just entertaining enough to keep you from falling asleep.
But, while I’m here, I’d like to talk a little about Amazon Prime. I’ve been an avid Amazon user since the very start; But the streaming Prime service has taken a while to really settle down for me. The original programming didn’t catch fire much, but, I’m finding more and more that when I search out an old film to buy on DVD or BluRay, I also now check to see of the film is available on Prime for free – or for a small charge (Prime typically charges around £2.50 to rent an old film).
In the past few weeks, I’ve rented several older films on Prime, rather than purchase the DVDS. And this little habit is beginning to stick.
This week, Martin Scorsese worried publically about cinema and Netflix and the streamers. He was concerned that great films were being lost in a slew of ‘content’. He was anxious about algorithms, and how they recommend films to viewers.
I understand these very valid reservations, especially about Netflix, but I would say that as far as I’m concerned, and speaking as one of the foremost script consultant’s in the UK, the Amazon algorithm is perfectly fine, and it constantly recommends me great films from the past, present and (sometimes) the future.
Indeed, the Amazon algorithm is what made them such a success, and I’d trust it above the Netflix algorithm. So, I suppose the point I’m getting to, about streaming and cinema, is that the success of streaming devices like Netflix and Amazon, might not actually come down to the content they make–it might actually be a battle of algorithms. Amazon can give me, and recommend me content more suited to my taste–and it can do this, because I’ve been an Amazon customer for nearly 20+ years.
Amazon knows my taste in cinema, better than Netflix.
I agree with Scorsese’s worries and highlighting the work of algorithm’s is correct, and these algorithms might prove to be the key, to keeping great cinema old and new alive.
So, here is a post about an older movie about computer hackers, nearly thirty years on, the movie is being recommended to people via an algorithm. I guess, Sneakers (1992) as good natured as it is, comes from a different world.
Matthew Cooper has been a scriptwriter for hire, UK Script editor and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service, Script reading service and script development service are highly sought after.
You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.