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This was a movie that deserved to tank. Kevin Mitnick, a genius with
computers who was a little too inquisitive for the authorities liking, has
been the victim of so many abuses that it can make one's stomach turn.
"Takedown" was adapted from a book written by John Markoff and Tsutomu
Shimomura who exploited Kevin, a man about whom neither of the authors had
any direct knowledge, and pretended to be Mitnick experts when in fact
couldn't have been more clueless.
Markoff, a hack journalist who did everything that he could to portray Kevin a danger to society in order to keep writing articles about him, has claimed wild rumors about Mitnick to be fact (rumors such as Kevin hacking into NORAD computers, harassing Christie McNickle, and converting home phones into pay phones) with no regard for the fact that he was demonizing Kevin in the eyes of society and in the eyes of a justice system - a system that would eventually lock Kevin in solitary confinement for 8 months because they were afraid he would use prison phones to launch nuclear missiles if placed in general population. Tsutomu Shimomura is nothing but a smart-ass hacker wanna-be whose main contribution to the book "Takedown" was a list of his skateboarding and eating habits.
If anyone out there really wants to learn the true Kevin Mitnick story, please view "Freedom Downtime" by Emmanuel Goldstein. [http://us.imdb.com/Title?0309614]
First of all, let's clear up some common misconceptions.
This film isn't "Hackers 2". You will find no CGI or parachute pants here. This film is about the capture of the notorious computer criminal Kevin Mitnick who used his technical skills and ability to influence people to gain access to things he really shouldn't have been able to access.
The thing that bothers me most about this film is the computer virus that Shimo wrote. I doubt that he did, and this makes Mmitnick seem worse by stealing it. The AI doesn't exist to put that virus around now, and it didn't 3 years ago.
The film in itself is a work of genius. This is the only realistic hacker film i have ever seen. Maybe because it was based on a true story and to put spinning DNA molecules on the computer screen instead of C++ would be a load of bollocks.
The acting is great; the pace of the movie is quick, especially in the part when the FBI almost captures Mitnick for the second time. The portrayal of the FBI in this film isn't very good, when they apprehended Mitnick, they didn't go in with 20 SWAT teams!
Kudos to Ulrich for his part as Kevin Mitnick, but as for Wong, I'm very surprised, where's the glasses and the geekyness? I know where, it got lost in the writing process, to make hackers look geeky and security experts look 'ard and sexy. In actual fact, security experts are just crackers in business suits. Kevin Mitnick did no damage, but they chase after him like he mass murdered a few police departments. I suppose they can't be totally realistic, and then the film would be an hour and a half of typing, with 30 minutes of chases and arrest.
I'm just glad there were no parachute pants ^_^
Not arguing technical details or realism, I feel what is presented in
this movie is an all-too black and white picture of hackers, or
"Crackers", as the hero refers to them. Great pains are taken to
portray Kevin Mitnick as a temper-prone, reactionary, asocial neurotic,
with nuances of sexual dysfunctionality thrown in as well. Whereas, the
hero (Tsutomu Shimomura)comes off as being the shiniest star in the
I would say this general portrayal is unfair, and nearly propagandistic in its intent. The movie really becomes a base for expounding the moral issues of hacking and 'freedom of information' in a society that survives on security. It is a clear warning, and it does NOT favor hacking or hackers.
I am appalled by that, because a more open picture of both sides might have been painted. "Hackers" brought the world to the standards of today, and daily test the security and limits of it... likewise, "programmers" continue to strive for safety, but also encrypt for greed, control, power, and politics. It is not all back and white.
Either a hacker OR a programmer are capable of accidentally, or intentionally creating havoc in a real world of banking, traffic lights, airports, and defense systems, although the chances seem less with programmers (unless you know about "The Singularity").
All I am saying is that this movie is VERY biased against hackers, it allows them NO redeemable social attributes, and it radically stereotypes them. It is intended to PERSUADE you. THAT, I regard as a THREAT to my own individual freedom of thought, and when you cross that line... alarms go off.
BEWARE of this if you haven't seen this movie yet.
Did "Big Brother" produce this film? ("Big Brother" is a reference to George Orwell's novel "1984") Regardless, the movie has good detail within a fast-moving and captivating plot.
Lastly, NO, I am NOT pro-hacker oriented. Mitnick is clearly a criminal with a long record of convictions dating all the way back to 1981... but, I don't like being told what, or how, to think about a whole class of people.
Stumbled upon TAKEDOWN's listing here on IMDB.com and had to check it out:
I'd read Markoff and Shimomura's book back in grad school and thought it was
okay (digression: there's a lot of debate in the hacker community about
which book covers the Mitnick case best, and many say Markoff and
Shimomura's book is extremely one-sided; Mitnick is guilty of nothing more
than breaking into several large corporation's servers and poking around,
trying out their code, they say. Whether this is a real crime, I leave that
up to you dear reader).
As for TAKEDOWN, the movie: most flicks about computers teeter on one end or the other of the Reality Scale: they are either boring -- afterall, it's just a person typing at a computer -- or way too fantastical for anyone who's used any flavor of Unix to take seriously (e.g., THE MATRIX or the last HACKERS movie). TAKEDOWN straddles the line somewhere in the middle -- and admirably so.
What TAKEDOWN does very well is show the process of social engineering, e.g., talking someone into thinking you're someone you're not to get information. Mitnick mastered this skill. The real crux of TAKEDOWN, though, is the showdown between the two egos of Mitnick and Shimomura (bravo to Russell Wong -- wow, if Shimo really is that much of an arrogant jerk, I can see why he got under Mitnick's skin so much).
Skeet Ulrich is often called the Poor Man's Johnny Depp, but here's a role that was made for him. Joe Chappelle's direction is crisp and keeps the action tense. Minor complaint: The editor should have chilled out a bit though -- man, do we really need all those quick, jarring cuts? I supposed they were trying to make using a computer look interesting, cool and non-boring.
Overall, if you're into hacking, subcultures, law enforcement and computer crime, you should check this one out. It's too bad no one's seen this -- it must have been released direct-to-video; I don't even remember seeing ads in the paper for it.
P.S. keep an eye out for a brief appearance by Amanda Peet in a telling scene that hints at the REAL source of Mitnick's problems: LACK OF SOCIAL SKILLS!
I know all about the Mitnick story, the "Free Kevin", the story from both sides. I'm well aware how the hacking scene thinks this paints an unfair portrait of hackers. Compared to what is usually painted, this doesn't really paint them too bad. Compared to the really atrocious movie "Hackers", this does a lot better at showing what hacking is really like. You don't hack with a Mac, you hack from a PC in different ways. You get to also see the other try & true techiques of Social Engineering & Dumpster Diving. While any true hacker could point out the blatant lies in the movie (Mitnick & Shimomura never met in person until after the arrest), it was cool that the film made some clear distinctions in terminology. If this movie showed actual hacking, it would of been a snoozer. This was able to keep it a bit more interesting without making it look cheesy to the semiliterate computer user. It's funny how this won't appear in the United States, maybe the US Government is afraid of the truth about how afterwards Mitnick was stripped of his constitutional rights. Watch this film, and be entertained, but don't believe it, as most of it is really fiction.
I believe many people started watching this movie expecting it to be very bad - and I hope many will be as pleasantly surprised as I was. It isn't bad. In fact, it's quite good. Yes, it oversimplifies a lot (though compared with "Hackers", it seems ultrarealistic...) and, as far as Kevin's real story goes, it makes up some things that never happened (for instance, Kevin and Shimomura did not meet in life) - but overall, it's definitely worth watching. Those who followed the way its script had been changing over the years, certainly remember how bad and unfair it was in the beginning - it portrayed Kevin as a criminal of no feelings, and was extremely one-sided, based only on Shimomura's and Markoff's book and relations, and shown from their point of view. Hiring a new writer and looking for sources in a book other than that by M&S helped, however, and the result is a pretty fair, objective movie that shows Kevin as a human, not as a monster. The only thing that should be severely criticized is throwing in the scene with Kevin attempting to distribute Shimomura's nonexistent S.A.T.A.N.-like utility, but other than that, the script treats things fair. See this movie... and while watching it, remember that although at this moment Kevin is already free, he is not allowed to access any kind of computer - which means that he cannot even use a cell phone or a cash register... Perhaps a new movie, "Kevin Free", might portrait his life nowadays.
Takedown is the story of Kevin Mitnick and Tsutomu Shimamura's effort
bring him down.
Whatever the accuracies of the story (and considering the egos involved, I guess we'll never know), this is a pretty riveting tale of an underground hacker playing and defeating the system. Which is all you could ever ask for in a movie. :-)
Johnny Depp lookalike Skeet Ulrich, Russell Wong, Donal Logue, Cara Buono, Amanda Peet and Angela Featherstone make this low budget movie worth while.
Whether or not the real Kevin Mitnick is a nice fellow or what he did was totally legal doesn't detract much from this ripping yarn. The production values are ok (but what would you expect from a guy who spends most of his time sitting behind a monitor in a small room?), however, the concept makes it more than worth while. Especially the "social engineering" segments are cool. Not to be missed if you're at all interested in movies about sub-cultures and the guerilla mentality.
To be honest I watched this film purely for the fact that I am very interested in Hacker Culture/History.. and to my dismay, this film is far from the truth. However it does have its good sides.. it's portrayal of hacking itself and of people with an over-enthusiastic interest in computing for one. Where other hacker-orientated Hollywood movies show flashy tron-like graphics to depict gaining root on a system, Takedown shows you how it is. And the other good thing about this movie is just that... its a movie. If you ignore the fact that the majority of its plot is based on biased views from people who either disliked Kevin, or never even knew him, it's watchable. It contains all the aspects of a Hollywood movie that grab the viewer.. an original topic, a fast moving storyline, a so-called criminal that you really feel sorry for, an unjust American legal system, and a so-called victim who is just as bad as the depicted criminal. If you can easily switch off, this film is for you, but if you care about freedom of information, moral values and the fact that everyone has the right to a fair trial... go watch Freedom Downtime.
From everything that I heard about the original script (which was
"obtained" under mysterious circumstances and leaked to the world
before shooting started), I was expecting this movie to be really,
really awful. I was pleasantly surprised to see that either Miramax,
the writers, and/or the producers took some of the hacker community's
complaints seriously, and adjusted the script accordingly. The final
script that was filmed is certainly more even-handed and fair to Kevin
Mitnick than Shimomura and Markoff's horrible book "Takedown" was (for
a much better treatment of the Kevin Mitnick story, read Jonathan
Littman's 1996 book "The Fugitive Game"), and we should be grateful
that this film didn't end up being the hatchet-job on Kevin that we all
thought it was going to be.
I was glad to see that the "trashcan cover scene", for example, didn't make the final cut, but a little disappointed that we weren't shown how large of a role that John Markoff played during Shimo's "manhunt" for Kevin, and then afterward; according to their own book, Markoff was present for many of the events that took place in North Carolina, and should have at least been shown in the scenes at the cell site alongside Shimo, Julia and the FBI agents.
They also could have done more with the "Lance" character, who represented a real hacker calling himself "Agent Steal" that was working for the FBI, and who figured prominently in the arrest and conviction of another hacker named Kevin Poulsen. (Poulsen's story, done properly, would make for a great movie too, but I digress..) Another no-brainer, slam-dunk scene that should have been in the movie, but wasn't for some reason, was Kevin and Shimo's one and only face to face meeting, in a North Carolina courtroom shortly after his arrest, where Kevin uttered his now famous line "I respect your skills" to Shimo.
I mean, it's no "Saving Private Ryan" or "Godfather Part II", but it isn't bad, either; in fact, it is a much more realistic and enjoyable movie than "Hackers" or "Sneakers" (to its credit, "Hackers" did have the lovely Angelina Jolie going for it), though not as much fun as "War Games", which is truly the "Citizen Kane" of hacker movies, or "Pump Up The Volume", which was more of a hacker movie than people realize, even though the "hacking" is done with a pirate radio station instead of a computer.
As others have already recommended here, go find a copy of "Freedom Downtime", the excellent documentary about Kevin that was produced by Emmanuel Goldstein and the staff of 2600 Magazine, you won't be disappointed.
"Takedown" is a dire film. Poor direction, poor acting and an embarrassingly bad script make this a film to avoid at all costs. The story of Kevin Mitnik is a fascinating one but "Takedown" misses the mark by miles. If you want to watch a well-made and fun film about hacking, then watch "Wargames". If you want to know the truth about what happened to Kevin Mitnuk then watch "Freedom Downtime". There's simply no reason to watch "Takedown".
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