Cosmo and Marty are two hacker friends,
Who mess with some funds in 1969.
While Marty is out getting pizza, the feds
Arrest his pal Cosmo, but Marty is fine.
After two decades pass, Marty now has a team,
Who help him break into unbreakable banks.
He then offers tips to help make them secure,
Creating a job from what used to be pranks.
People Marty’s recruited include Donald Crease,
An ex-CIA with a serious streak;
And “Mother”, a rampant conspiracy theorist,
Who happens to be a technology geek;
“Whistler,” a blind man with sensitive ears;
And Carl, who’s young but as sharp as a tack.
They all have had scrapes with the law in the past,
But Marty has helped get their lives back on track.
Two men commission the “Sneakers” to find
A cryptic black box for the vague NSA.
They know Marty’s past, which he’s tried to escape,
And offer to wipe his slate clean and to pay.
Marty and friends reconnoiter the room
Of Janek, a mathematician, and they
Discover the box he has worked to develop
And break in to spirit the gadget away.
Partying after their lucrative sneak,
They talk of the things they will buy with the cash,
But Whistler discovers the box decodes codes
And can break into any network in a flash.
Still trusting their clients, they drop off the box
But flee when they find out that Janek’s been slain.
Though Marty accuses the Russians of this,
Their consul is killed before he can explain.
Marty is kidnapped and thrown in a trunk
And meets his pal Cosmo he thought died in jail.
His friend then reveals his new mafia ties
And proves he’s gone nuts in his former travail.
Using the box to destabilize banks
And countries, he plans to let anarchy reign.
Once Cosmo frames Marty for both of those murders,
He frees him, that Marty may soon know his pain.
Needing the box as a bargaining chip,
The “sneakers” plan carefully for their next theft.
With clever techniques and some devious means,
They breach Cosmo’s lair with what time they have left.
After some close calls, the jig’s about up
With Marty at gunpoint and Cosmo uptight.
While Cosmo won’t kill him, he does get the box
But finds it’s a decoy once Marty takes flight.
Marty and company then arbitrate
With Abbott, a man with the real NSA.
With promises made, they hand over the box
But keep its processor for some rainy day.

As I said in my review for Entrapment earlier, I’m not a big fan of caper films simply because of the criminal nature of most of their plotlines. However, Sneakers manages to sidestep that issue for the most part by allowing the likable characters to put their formerly nefarious skills to a legal use: breaking into banks and such in order to help their security. Thus, until the last scene, which unfortunately shows that the “sneakers” are not completely on the straight-and-narrow, they use their expertise for (supposedly) reputable organizations or later to escape crimes they were either tricked into committing or for which they were framed. The legality of it all is still rather hazy, but at least they weren’t doing it to steal money or the like.

Sneakers has one of the best underrated ensembles, and the clever and laugh-out-loud script provides good lines and moments for every character. Dan Aykroyd as the conspiracy-spouting “Mother” and Sidney Poitier as Crease, the straight man, play off each other quite well, and David Strathairn is memorable as the blind but ever perceptive “Whistler,” as is Ben Kingsley as Cosmo, even if the villain’s ultimate fate is left up in the air. River Phoenix and Mary McDonnell round out the well-developed cast. As far as my VC is concerned, Robert Redford is reason alone to see it, and she also likes the sophisticated saxophone soundtrack played by Branford Marsalis. I also love James Earl Jones’s cameo at the end.

On top of all this, the methods used by Marty’s team are fascinating, from Whistler’s knack for hearing exactly what’s going on in distant rooms to Mother’s slow-moving tactic for outsmarting motion sensors. The 22-year-old film even manages to be up-to-date by involving the NSA, which has been in the news of late; particularly timely is the fake NSA agent’s insistence that Marty “trust” them. Despite some language and innuendo, Sneakers is an excellent mix of suspense and humor and a worthy member of the caper genre and my list.

Best line: (“Whistler”, while the team makes its demands to the NSA at the end) “I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”  (Abbott) “We are the United States Government! We don’t do that sort of thing.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 4
Originality: 6
Watchability: 7
Other (language and innuendo): -6
TOTAL: 30 out of 60

Tomorrow: #318: The Planet of the Apes (1968)

© 2014 S. G. Liput