Film: The Net

Identity theft is hell.

"Just think about it. Our whole world is sitting there on a computer. It's in the computer, everything: your, your DMV records, your, your social security, your credit cards, your medical records. It's all right there. Everyone is stored in there. It's like this little electronic shadow on each and every one of us, just, just begging for someone to screw with, and you know what? They've done it to me, and you know what? They're gonna do it to you."
Angela Bennett

The Net is a 1995 techno-thriller film starring Sandra Bullock and directed by Irwin Winkler. Bullock plays Angela Bennett, an unassuming, nerdy computer analyst and reclusive loner who works from home, helping her company debug games and other software. She becomes embroiled in an intricate conspiracy when her co-worker sends her a disk of security software called "Gatekeeper", containing a secret backdoor into various government agencies, hospitals and any computer system Gatekeeper supposedly protects. This makes Angela a target of the Praetorians, a dangerous group of hackers who use their manipulation of everything online to kill or ruin the lives of anyone who threatens them.

Bennett becomes a wanted fugitive when her identity is replaced with that of a known criminal, her credit cards rendered null, her car stolen and her house sold without her knowledge. With everyone believing she is someone she is not, and a charming assassin on her tail, Bennett can only count on her former therapist, Dr Alan Champion, to protect her and ensure her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's, is safe. It will take all of her skill and wits to uncover the real identity and motives of The Praetorians and bring down the conspiracy before they have undetectable access to every major computer system.

A Fugitive-esque spin-off TV series in the USA was created, which turns the plot of the film into an episodic narrative pitting runaway Angela against the Praetorians, a cyber-terrorist organization that makes her a target of the FBI by swapping her identity with one the top 10 Most Wanted List. A Direct-to-Video sequel (in actuality the same premise under different circumstances), The Net 2.0, was made in 2006, about a female computer analyst who gets her identity stolen while in Instanbul.

This film includes examples of the following:

  • Action Survivor: crosses over into Action Girl towards the end, but for the most part Angela is flung into the mayhem and caught unawares.
  • Batman Gambit: Angela emails the FBI, blowing the lid on the conspiracy. Devlin hacks the FBI to get rid of the email, inadvertently triggering the virus that brings down Gatekeeper.
  • Big Bad: Jeff Gregg.
  • Big Brother Is Watching
  • Captain Ersatz: Jeff Gregg for Bill Gates.
  • Chekhov's Gun: the disk containing the virus used to bring down Gatekeeper.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Towards the end of the movie, Angela has the news on and literally every single story on it is conveniently related to Angela's plot line.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: a computer disk with a virus is colored red.
    • Likely invoked here by Angela's friend who sent her the disk, so she could remember what disk had the virus on it.
  • Conspiracy Thriller
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jeff Gregg
  • The Cracker: The Big Bad aka Jeff Gregg.
  • Disney Villain Death: Devlin's demise.
  • Driven to Suicide: Undersecretary of Defense Michael Bergstrom, when told that he has AIDS. His medical records were changed to make it look like he did.
  • Evil Brit: Devlin
  • Everything Is Online: The film explores and dissects the over-reliance of computers in important facets of modern society. Angela Bennett bemoans this point when talking to her provided attorney.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Actually not as gratuitous as one might think, but the effects of a computer virus are shown as pixels slowly degenerating and floating away.
  • Fanservice: What else do you call Sandra Bullock in a black bikini, lounging on a beach?
  • Faux Affably Evil: Devlin.
  • She Knows Too Much
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: Angela Bennett wraps herself with Jack Devlin's sports coat while aboard his boat. When she finds a gun with a silencer in one pocket, she begins to suspect that Jack intends to murder her.
  • Hollywood Nerd: You know nerds have made the big-time when one is played by Sandra Bullock.
  • I Have Your Mother: almost.
  • It Amused Me: The temporary computer crashes experienced by Wall Street and LAX appear to have been caused by cyber pranksters who did it for the lulz.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Angela removes the clip from Jack's gun. Despite holding it for several minutes while he talks to her, he fails to notice the weight difference and doesn't realize that it's empty until he tries to use it.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Angela Bennett exemplifies the idea of computers and the Internet facilitating the lifestyle of extreme reclusiveness. Her mostly solitary existence might have been a bit too solitary, to the point where her neighbour can't even vouch that she existed.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Devlin's ploy to steal Bennett's disk
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Jack Devlin.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Especially when played by Sandra Bullock and Jeremy Northam.
  • New Media Are Evil: The film is a reaction to the dawning Information Age, and attempts to make the Internet seem all-powerful and scary.
  • Non Indicative Name: Dr Alan Champion. he dies from insulin poisoning.
  • Oh, Crap: Most of Angela's reactions to various things, including her house being sold, her car being stolen, her fake criminal record and so on.
  • Plot Coupon: "Give us the disk and we'll give you your life back". Too bad it melted in the Mexican sun.
  • Professional Killer: Jack Devlin
  • Pursued Protagonist: And how. She's constantly on the run.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Any and all close-ups of a security camera panning slightly are an indication of something ominous.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The film belongs firmly to that brief era when the Internet was brand new, and some people were terrified that it could bring down society.
  • Villainous Crush: Devlin for Angela. It doesn't stop him to try killing her, though.
  • Western Terrorists: The Praetorians
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: though it's kept ambiguous how much of Angela's actions the FBI know of in the end, she gets her life back apparently without having to answer for some of the minor things she had to do; fleeing the police, setting off fire drills, etc.
    • This is because all that was done by a woman whom the police believe was called 'Ruth Marx' who was conveniently found dead with Devlin at the computer fare. Angela Bennett had switched their names back.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Jeff Gregg engineered all the cyber attacks and made it seem like this was the work of pranksters, in order to get the US Government to buy his anti-virus software to protect their system. The software was purposely engineered with a backdoor, to make it easy for Gregg to hack in. He could still get in before, but this way is undetectable and easier and he made some money. Whether or not the software was bought he still had the fruits of the initial attack.