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WarGames

Year: 1983
Studio: MGM
Director: John Badham
Writer: Lawrence Lasker/Walter F Parkes
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, Barry Corbin

The Promethean myth is endlessly attributable to computers, and though this film doesn't have as much popular influence as The Terminator it predates Skynet, Cyberdine's artificially intelligent computer network put in charge of American national defense.

After the tense opening when two nuclear silo technicians almost unleash World War Three after they receive a launch order but aren't told it's a drill, the powers that be decide to take the messy emotional element out and replace the launch capacity with an AI agent called Joshua.

At the same time, bored teenage hacker David (Broderick, bound for stardom soon after with Ferris Bueller's Day Off) finds a backdoor into what he thinks is a computer games company and starts playing a program called global thermonuclear war, unaware he's broken into the new system and is playing Joshua, who can't distinguish between the game and reality and has his virtual finger on The Button.

As the NORAD authorities scramble to find out what's going on, they track David down and swipe him and his erstwhile girlfriend Jennifer (Sheedy), thinking they're Soviet spies.

The pair realise what David's done and escape to find the scientist who first programmed Joshua, determined to bring him in before Joshua's gameplaying causes the jittery military authorities to launch everything the US has.

It's thrilling and has its heart in the right place even though the computer sequences are now antiques - you could remake it every ten years with the most up to the minute technology and still never make the movie timeless.

But in the end it comes down to Joshua having to learn what we all intuitively know about nuclear war when he utters the film's pivotal line: 'a strange game. The only winning move is not to play'.

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