Plot: Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) works as a software engineer, but she is an expert on all things computer related, perhaps to a fault. She spends most of her time doing work, playing with new programs, chatting on-line, and other computer activities, to the point where she even orders her pizza from her desk. But this causes her to have no real social life, very few friends, and outside of visiting her mother, she rarely leaves her terminals. But she plans to take a vacation in a short while, which comes as a surprise to those who know her and even she is kind of surprised herself. She plans to meet a friends of hers who wants her to debug another program, but he winds up dead in a plane crash. As she inspects the disc he sent, she notices some very unusual content and even some top secret data, which ends up getting her into more trouble than she can imagine. Her vacation is a chance to leave her life behind, but before long, she’ll wish she was herself again, as criminals erase her very existence. Can she stay one step ahead of them and deliver the hidden data to the authorities, regaining her life in the process, or is she doomed to life her life as someone else?
Entertainment Value: A lot of movies embrace the trending tech at the time of production, but of course those elements rarely age well and in the case of The Net, the emphasis on tech adds immense b movie vibes. The movie was a passable thriller when released and had some fun paranoia laced atmosphere, but now all the tech threads are super dated and make for unintentional humor. That isn’t to say all the tension is defused, as The Net still weaves an interesting narrative and given how wild some news stories have been, the concept isn’t all that hard to believe. But at the same time, not much attention to detail is present in The Net and that leads to passable at best twists, rather than well thought out, blindside style turns. Even so, there is enough entertainment here to lure in genre fans and Sandra Bullock devotees, I think. The main draw for more b movie minded folks will be the ridiculous tech elements, such as Angela eradicating a virus in Wolfenstein in like five seconds and other similar, ludicrous moments. The movie is dead serious when it uses every hacking/coding trope in the book, which again makes the sillier scenes pack a nice unintentional humor level. In the end, whether you’re here for a Bullock thriller or to laugh at the goofier parts of the movie, The Net still offers decent entertainment and remains a brisk watch.
You can likely gauge your enjoyment of The Net based on how you feel about Sandra Bullock as a hardcore, antisocial white hat hacker. If you love the idea, for the intended reasons or otherwise, you will probably have a good ride with the movie, since it centers heavily on Bullock’s tech wizardry and such. You have to give it to her, she goes for it and plays even the most over the top, beyond ridiculous tech scene with sincere presence, it is quite fun to watch. Her usual charm is here as well, even if she is hard to buy as an awkward, anti-social type like Angela is presented as. The serious approach is what makes The Net work so well, both as a normal thriller and as a b movie, so she carries a lot of the movie, for better or worse. Dennis Miller is an odd choice for the cast of a cyber-thriller, but he isn’t a consistent presence in the movie and plays it straight, with a dash of his usual rapid fire humor mixed in. And Jeremy Northam is a suitable sleazy villain that runs in contrast well with Bullock’s good girl Angela, so he brings a needed element to the table here. The cast also includes Ray McKinnon, Diane Baker, Ken Howard, and Wendy Gazelle.