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As college students in the 1960s, Martin Bishop and his friend Cosmo stood on the edge of the electronic frontier...computer pranksters who wired donations from the Republican Party to the Black Panthers.
Twenty-five years later, Bishop (Robert Redford) has found his niche in the information age. He heads a team of high-tech experts (aka "Sneakers") who are hired to penetrate systems and test their security. They'll read your mail, bug your office, listen to your phone calls, access the contents of your computer, videotape your meetings or break into your bank.
In other words, there are no more secrets.
Although Bishop and his colleagues may have questionable pasts, their complementary skills have made them a formidable team.
Meet Crease (Sidney Poitier), a 22-year veteran of the CIA. He was terminated in 1987 for an apparent "personality conflict."
Carl, age 19 (River Phoenix). He once broke into his school's computer to change his grades...and gave himself a scholarship.
Mother (Dan Aykroyd) has done 18 months at Dannemora Pen for breaking and entering. There isn't a gadget in the world that he doesn't own or operate.
Whistler (David Strathairn) is an audio wizard whose blindness has blessed him with a genius for sound.
And last but not least, Martin Bishop...the boss. Although his college high jinks were computer crimes that should have put him in jail, Bishop has managed to evade the authorities. His friend Cosmo (Ben Kingsley) was not as lucky.
When two government agents (Timothy Busfield, Eddie Jones) threaten to expose Bishop and his colleagues unless they participate in a covert operation, the "Sneakers" enter a high-stakes world where technology has become a brilliant but dangerous tool.
"Sneakers" also stars Mary McDonnell as Liz, formerly Bishop's girldfriend and now his reluctant accomplice.
Phil Alden Robinson directs the caper film from a screenplay he wrote with Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes, who also serve as the film's producers. The executive producer is Lindsley Parsons, Jr. and the talented team behind the camera includes cinematographer John Lindley, production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, costume designer Bernie Pollack and editor Tom Rolf. James Horner composed the original score, which also features renowned musician Branford Marsalis on soprano sax.
While doing research for their Academy-Award nominated screenplay "WarGames," writers Parkes and Lasker developed a fascination with computers and information technology. They first heard the term "Sneakers" at a computer convention in 1981 as a nickname for IBM's "kid programmers" (as opposed to "brown shoes"). Months later, they met the editor of a small computer magazine for whom the word had an entirely different meaning. He explained that "Sneakers," also known as "black hatters" and "tiger teams," are individuals who are hired to secretly break into places in order to test the security of the installations.
"In the 1960s, no one could have anticipated what a powerful tool the computer would be, or how dependent the world would become on it for storage and manipulation of information," says writer-producer Parkes. "For as much good as it would contribute, the computer would also present us with tremendous potential for crime. Suddenly, no information is really secure and we are all faced with a threat to our privacy."
"'Sneakers' has to do with a new age...the information age," says Robert Redford. "It's quite possible that a war in the future will be a war of information. Whoever has it, wins."
Director Phil Alden Robinson adds, "One important issue within the information age is: Can you trust the information you receive since it is now transmitted by such vulnerable means?"