War Games Review

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David Lightman, a whizz kid obsessed with computer games, manages by chance to connect into the Government’s super-computer which controls the country’s nuclear arsenal. Then the computer challenges him to a game of World War III, with David not realising


Although personal computer technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the clunky early ‘80s, making the crude machines on show here look the Spinning Jennys of the internet generation, this apocalyptic techno-thriller played out by teens still has a chilling grip. There is something frighteningly reminiscent of 2001’s HAL about the robotic voice of the talking super-computer that challenges Matthew Broderick’s David (the geek version of Ferris Bueller) to a game of Global Thermonuclear War – meaning the real thing. In a bleak gag, when David decides to nuke Las Vegas he ignites a countdown to oblivion. Quite a heavy thing for a kid to shoulder, but Broderick manages the terrible realisation with considerable restraint.

In 1983 the Cold War was still escalating, and the dread possibilities presented by the game carried a larger kick than they do today. With that HAL resonance it is clear to see off-and-on hack John Badham repeating Kubrick’s dire warnings of technological take-overs in the confines of what is a preposterous but keenly thought out first half. Sadly, Badham feels it necessary to pluck David away from his computer screen for some ordinary chase sequences involving governmental agents and a tame romance with Ally Sheedy. And who needs the simpering message-making of the close?

But the tension is undeniable, the dire warning for boys glued to their computer games that they could br

Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker's script is tight, and Badham directs the whole thing with economy and pace but it's Matthew Broderick's film.