Anyone who has ever experienced identity theft will relate to Sandra Bullock’s desperate situation in The Net, one of those lynchpin 90’s thrillers that captures the dawning internet culture in ways both silly as well as frightening. I mean this is kind of an off the wall film but it’s an old favourite of mine and always works as perfect escapist entertainment. Plus Sandra Bullock just makes the perfect protagonist, she’s so down to earth, humble and sweet that I always find myself right there in the passenger seat, sympathetically along for the ride in whatever crazy scenario she finds herself in. Here she plays Angela Bennett, a garden variety computer programmer who unwittingly stumbles into a deep set conspiracy that’s not only out of her pay grade but way beyond her level of comprehension or ability to dodge. Soon whatever forces out there have noticed and scary shit starts to befall her: her credit cards decline, law enforcement is hijacked into believing she’s a fugitive, a mysterious operative (Jeremy Northam) first appears attractive and friendly before becoming despicable and malevolent and her life begins to spiral out of control. I further sympathize with Angela because she’s virtually alone and has no one to really turn to, no boyfriend, no obligatory supportive coworker, no kindly boss, even her mother (the great Diane Baker) suffers from Alzheimer’s and barely recognizes her. She’s sort of a loner anyways but in that characteristic she finds the necessary resilience, defence mechanisms and edge to fight back against the nefarious net that’s closing in around her. This gets ragged on a lot and sure you can write it off as just another creaky 90’s cyber-tech thriller but it’s Bullock who wins the day with sheer star power and believable work the whole way through. Love this one to bits.
Guy X is one of those tonally disorientating black comedies whose madcap antics hide a deeper truth, visible only to those patient enough to sift through the meandering detritus. It also helps I your sense of humour is on the right frequency, one that is decidedly off key in this case. Think of a Terry Gilliam film, that mad rush of arbitration and deafening bureaucratic hubbub that serves as a smokescreen for something a little more grounded. Jason Biggs, keeping his dick out of pies this time around, plays Rudy, a low level army grunt who is accidentally sent to an outpost right in the the Arctic, and the middle of nowhere too, as we soon see by his fellow soldier’s boredom fuelled shenanigans. It’s fish out of water, but we get an uncanny sense that he’s also there for a reason, one that takes it’s painstaking time to emerge. Smitten by the beautiful commanding officer (the always lovely Natasha McElhone), hounded by her petty boyfriend (Jeremy Northam) and constantly swept up in the feverish lack of discipline or coherence among the ranks. It’s all fun and games, to be sure, but there’s a melancholic aura that hangs around, especially when Rudy discovers the titular Guy X (Michael Ironside in a transfixing cameo), a lost and forgotten soul who hints at the futility of military operations, reminding us of how we all cloak our existential dread in frosty self depracation and ironic gallows humour. That’s the film, essentially, which I think many didn’t get. Most of the reviews I’ve seen on imdb are from folks who struggled deeply with the sharp, uncomfortable shift in tone, understandably jarred by a sobering rift between playful banter and troubling reflection. The important films are often more difficult for a idea audience to receive, they’re just constructed that way. This one is no exception, but there’s many a lighthearted moment and comedic situation to be enjoyed before the hammer of reality comes down.