The Net: Special Edition
The problem with making a movie that hinges on cutting-edge technology is similar to the frustration faced by everyone who buys a new computer: Give it a year, and it will be hopelessly outdated. The Net (1995) is no exception. While the idea of identity theft is still of-the-moment, the computers, cell phones, and modems Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, and company use to wage their online war are so mid-'90s. (Props for anticipating online pizza ordering and travel booking, though.) That's why it's so interesting that the goal of the villainous Praetorians to cause panic and destabilize society by using computer viruses to infiltrate public utilities, airports, government agencies, and financial institutions seems more relevant (and feasible) now, in a post-September 11th society, than it did in '95. So don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting a little harder for Angela Bennett (Bullock) the reclusive, vulnerable L.A. antivirus expert who finds herself abruptly "erased" when she accidentally stumbles on to the Praetorians' plan this time around. Unfortunately, pro-Angelaism isn't enough to make this relatively pokey "thriller" work in the end. Any movie in which the main character spends at least half of her screen time sitting at a computer, typing, and talking to herself doesn't exactly scream "dynamic." And although he's ultimately proven to be a good find for Hollywood, Northam, who plays suave scoundrel Jack Devlin, comes across like a British version of a cheesy Alec Baldwin bad guy here. The Net does build up to a decently tense climax, but its moral live your life off-line feels heavy-handed; it seems the more apt lesson to take from this techno-fable is not to talk to handsome English strangers on the beach. Columbia TriStar's The Net: Special Edition, which replaces the original DVD release, boasts a beautifully remastered anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track (other options include French, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks, as well an array of subtitles). Topping the features-list are a pair of commentaries, one by producer/director Irwin Winkler and producer Rob Cowan (who also have recorded a track for Life as a House ), and one by writers Michael Ferris and John Brancato. Both are fairly typical, as commentaries go expect anecdotes, making-of details, and generous praise. For a distilled version of both tracks, opt for either of the disc's two featurettes (HBO's "Inside the Net" and the brand-new "The Net: From Script to Screen") instead; Winkler and Cowan are interviewed in both, and Brancato and Ferris show up too. Other features include trailers, filmographies, and printed production notes. Keep-case.