Apart from seeing Robert Redford in a role similar to those he made his name by (cool charmer in hot water), the good news here is that Sneakers is by far the cleverest caper comedy-thriller in a long time. First conceived by Phil Alden, Robinson and War Games writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes as a high-tech Dirty Dozen, this emerges as a very neatly plotted blend of elaborate heist and twisting thriller, peppered with amusing gags and smart one-liners for its top class ensemble.
The scene is set in the late 60s, when a pair of young pioneer computer hackers play student activist pranks like switching Republican Party funds into a Black Panther account, after which one is nabbed in an FBI raid, and the other escapes and goes on the run, ending up twentysome years later as Robert Redford's Martin Bishop, still living under an assumed identity and heading a state-of-the-art security and surveillance team of marvellous oddballs - the Sneakers of the title.
Dan Aykroyd's gadget master "Mother" is a hilariously paranoid 60s relic who attributes even earthquakes to political conspirators; Sidney Poitier's voice of reason is ex-CIA; the late River Phoenix is the punk computer genius; and David Strathairn is a standout as a blind audiotronics wizard dubbed "Whistler".
At a tidy pace the famous five are set up in an ingenious round of blackmail, theft, covert operations, murder and disorganised crime as they set about nicking a top secret decoding gizmo from a dissident Russian scientist. Add Mary McDonnell as Martin's ex-girlfriend roped in for Mata Hari shenanigans, a pony-tailed Ben Kingsley as a megalomaniac criminal mastermind and San Francisco locations that are actually fresh, and you have a scam that is enormously entertaining, quite gripping and a fun-filled Valentine to cyberpunks and computer hackers everywhere.