WarGames (1983)

WarGames (1983)

When David (Matthew Broderick) decides to try to get early access to the latest videogame, he inadvertently hacks into Norad's new defence programme's computer to play "Global Thermonuclear War", triggering it to play out a simulated war between the USSR and USA... but with the Cold War in full swing and with the computer connected up to live military equipment, he might have accidentally just started World War 3.

It would be easy to dismiss a 1983 film about the Cold War and 40 year old computers as a dusty relic of a past, and seeing Broderick's David dialling out using his analogue phone hooked up to a command line computer does reinforce that belief.

In addition, WarGames is a film that seems confused about its genre, flicking from the teen angst of David and Jennifer (Ally Sheedy) who worry about their school grades, to a war room thriller oozing with tension as the countdown to the missile strikes continues to tick.

However, WarGames was both miles ahead of its time and still relevant today - even outside of its geek culture status. The 1980s would barely have heard of the internet - ISPs only became mainstream a decade later - and personal computers were the pipedreams of many. In fact, Windows wasn't even announced at the film's release.

Despite that, as far-fetched as it may have been for a teenager to hack into the military - even inadvertently - in the early 1980s, you don't have to go far to find instances of it happening in the news today, and artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to be two of the most discussed topics of technology in 2021.

Broderick carries the film in one of his first acting roles, handling teenage innocence and regret with ease, although two additional non-human characters deserve a mention. The military computer, WOPR (voiced by John Wood) is reminiscent of 2001's HAL, and the war room itself takes on a personality perhaps not seen since Dr Strangelove (which the film pays homage to in a smart joke).

Bizarrely, for such a cult classic, WarGames remains expensive DVD and is paid to watch on all major streaming platforms. Maybe it is time to start dialling West Coast telephone numbers.

4 stars