5-Word 365 #348 – Sneakers

Today’s flick comes with one of the best tag lines I’ve ever seen on a poster.


Toy companies are all evil.

Martin Bishop and his crew of former thieves, spies and hackers are recruited by the government to “obtain” a secretive new device created by a Soviet-funded mathematician. This device turns out to be a lot more powerful than Bishop could have foreseen, and he has to keep all his wits about him to keep it from getting into the wrong hands. Hilarity ensues.

For those of you who may have missed it twenty years ago, Sneakers is what happens when you put Ocean’s Eleven (or six, in this case) up against a Bond villain. It’s a witty, fun caper movie with such an overriding sense of cheerfulness – even in the more tense sequences – that you can’t help but be swept along for the ride. Following up the classic Field of Dreams, director Phil Alden Robinson handles the all-star cast and playful tone like a pro, but it’s the banter and sense of camaraderie among the crew that really makes this a pleasure to watch.

Robert Redford leads the way as Bishop, with Sidney Poitier as ex-CIA man Crease; Dan Aykroyd as paranoid conspiracy theorist “Mother”; River Phoenix as teenaged genius Carl; Mary McDonnell as Bishop’s ex-girlfriend Liz; and David Strathairn as the blind tech genius Whistler. On a side note, Strathairn’s performance is possibly the most convincing portrayal I’ve ever seen of a blind character by a sighted actor, and his dancing is just awesome. Everybody seems so relaxed in each other’s company, and though Redford is the star, he’s not above playing the fool every now and then. The opening sequence of the team breaking into a bank sees Bishop fall flat on his face trying to follow the much more agile Carl in leaping over a counter. This follows the priceless look Poitier’s Crease gives Carl when he sees him “blacking up” with camo cream before the raid. The movie is filled with little character-building moments like this, something a lot of more recent flicks appear to deem unnecessary.

Dan, what you choose to get up to in your own time is none of our business.

Dan, what you choose to get up to in your own time is none of our business.

There are no surprises in this flick. Even the big reveal of the bad guy being Bishop’s former college friend (busted during a hack in the prologue while a young Bish got away) is telegraphed from minute one. Ben Kingsley seems to be channeling Goldfinger and Blofeld in this role, and having a whale of a time doing it. Whether this spoils things for you depends on whether or not you can just sit back for an entertaining two hours and let things unfold. If you stop and think about it too much there are plot holes a-plenty (like why the box is still sitting unused in the same spot on Cosmo’s desk after about a week’s worth of surveillance) so the solution is just to not think about it too much.

How’s that for a pull quote? Sneakers – Just don’t think about it too much.


  1. Wednesday's Child · December 14, 2012

    I like the fact that David Strathairn tells the others where he was driven by using the sound of the seams on the bridge. I just thought that was clever the first time I saw this.

    • Ryan McNeely · December 15, 2012

      That was cool, wasn’t it? Also the bit where he could sense the ultrasonic motion detectors from an audio recording!

  2. poppeelings · December 16, 2012

    I did this one recently and really enjoyed it. For a 90s film it’s dated quite well too.

    • Ryan McNeely · December 16, 2012

      Better than a lot of its contemporaries, anyway. Though Redford’s jeans and loafers with white socks wasn’t exactly super trendy!

  3. Morgan R. Lewis · December 18, 2012

    One of my all-time favorite movies. Funny, smart, and just entertaining throughout. Hell of a cast, too.

    • Ryan McNeely · December 18, 2012

      Right on, Morgan. I wish I’d seen it when I was younger.

      • Morgan R. Lewis · December 18, 2012

        I would have been about 14 the first time I saw it. Probably just about the right age, at least for a budding young computer geek.

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