Antitrust


Directed by: Peter Howitt
Written by:Howard Franklin
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Tim Robbins, Rachel Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani
Released: April 26, 2001
Grade: A-

I caught Warren Beatty’s Bulworth on Showtime twice last weekend and it’s still one of the most important, topical and influential films ever made.  For those unfamiliar, the film brilliantly captures the paradox of American politics.  Election campaigns are funded by America’s wealthy and it’s often a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”.  Why is it that 1% of the population controls 97% of the wealth and the government does nothing to balance the ledger?

Bill Gates falls into the above category and is the obvious inspiration for Antitrust’s Gary Winston (played by Tim Robbins).  Gary is battling his competitors in trying to become the first to develop technology with the ability to link every electronic medium in the world.

With his much publicised product launch just 42 days away, he recruits young computer genius Milo Hoffman (Phillippe) to solve the major technical glitches that continue to plague the software.  For Milo, this is a career defining opportunity and girlfriend Alice (Forlani) is equally excited by the money on offer.

After settling in for a few weeks, Milo comes to learn that something isn’t quite right about the organisation.  Every time he’s stuck in a programming jam, Gary provides a near-immediate answer to his problems.  Just where is Gary getting his information from?  He doesn’t have time to program all this language himself so are there others working for him or is he part of conspiracy that’s stealing ideas from his rivals?

Whilst it may appear targeted at a teen audience (with the casting of Phillippe and Cook), Antitrust is a sharp thriller with legitimate perspectives on the “antitrust” laws.  Milo feels the software should be free to the public given its importance and puts this question to Gary who responds by saying he’ll use the billions raised to fund future projects and make technology even better.  Is that a valid argument?  As I walked out of the cinema, I saw an advert boldly proclaiming that Westfield is donating $1,000,000 for computers in schools.  Are they doing it to further our children’s education or are they just doing it for publicity?  Just what is their motive?

Political statements aside, Antitrust also looks at the simple importance of trust - something we can all relate to.  Gary’s money and power give him a lot of friends so just who can Milo turn to when he senses something is wrong?  As fellow worker Lisa (Cook) says to Milo, “how do you let go of a secret without telling the wrong person?”  Sometimes we get it right but sometimes we get it wrong and pay the price.

Director Peter Howitt (In The Name Of The Father, Sliding Doors) has made as heightened the suspense of this edge-of-your-seat thriller thanks to some slick music from Don Davis, speedy editing from Academy Award winner Zach Staenberg (The Matrix) and dazzling sets from Doug Byggdin and Rose Marie McScherry.  The eye-catching opening credits set a high standard that is lived up to.  Ryan Phillippe shows he can carry a film and Tim Robbins again proves that he’s one of the few actors in Hollywood who can play both a good guy (as in The Shawshank Redemption) and a bad guy (as in Arlington Road) really well.

The catchphrase reiterated throughout the film is that “a good chess player always knows his opponents moves before he makes them”.  It’s kind of the same way I look at films - I like it when the film knows what I’m expecting and then surprises by taking a different direction.  Antitrust is one such film so make sure you check it out.  Don’t worry, you can “trust” me.