AntiTrust

Directed by Peter Howitt
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Tim Robbins, Rachael Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and brief language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
January 20, 2001

The makers of AntiTrust would like you to know that their film is not about Microsoft. Tim Robbins plays a character who could easily be confused for Bill Gates, since he is about the same age, with the same hair, glasses, and megalomania, not to mention a big software company in the Pacific Northwest that is under antitrust investigation, hence the film's title. We know he is not Bill Gates because his company's name is NURV (Never Underestimate Radical Vision), and one character mentions Bill Gates, and he replies, "Mill who?"

That other character is Milo Hoffmann (Ryan Phillippe). He was personally recruited by NURV president Gary Winston (Robbins) to work for the company after he graduated from Stanford. Milo was going to start a company with his friend Terry, who was also recruited, but refused the job based on principle. So, Terry starts the company without him, making "open source" software that is given away, then charging for technical support. Milo opts for the big money making proprietary software for NURV, abandoning his old credo of "human knowledge belongs to the world". You know, like Shakespeare or aspirin (which used to belong to Bayer, and still would if they could help it).

Milo and his girlfriend, Alice (Claire Forlani), move up to Portland, and all seems to be going well. He tries to stay in touch with Terry, but only manages one call before Terry is brutally murdered at his own computer. Shortly afterward, Gary shows Milo some new code that NURV has developed, which looks suspiciously like the project Terry was working on.

The only other field I know as well as film is software. Surprisingly, AntiTrust is pretty accurate, compared to other Hollywood films that center around computers. The only problem is that the film assumes that the audience is at least somewhat software-savvy, which is not typical of most of the teenage girls who went to see Cruel Intentions. However, MGM is heavily marketing this film to teenagers, playing up the attractive young leads, including Rachael Leigh Cook as a co-worker at NURV that Milo turns to when his paranoia is running high. Do fans of She's All That really care about open source software? Are they actually running Linux at home?

I doubt that anybody involved with the film knew what they were doing. There are many good action scenes in the film, and some interesting ideas, but for what? The promotion of a shaky business model? There is an underlying absurdity to the film when you have a man like Bill Ga-- I mean, Gary Winston who is willing to kill not only competitors but his own employees to keep his system closed and proprietary. Robbins approaches the character with all the subtlety of a villain in a Roger Corman movie, which is only appropriate.

MGM has gone from the biggest, most prestigious studio in Hollywood to the modern-day American International Pictures. They seem to be running their studio like a open source software company, except that they make a James Bond film every couple years to pay the bills. Maybe they should just relinquish the copyrights on their films, making them all public domain. No, wait, Ted Turner already bought them. Oh well, it seemed like such a nice idea.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
AntiTrust (2001)

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AntiTrust (2001) -- VHS
AntiTrust (2001) -- DVD


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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan