A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although The Net was released in 1995, its message about the dangers of the internet still feels relevant, especially for young teens who spend so much more time online than anyone did when the movie was released. (At that time there were only 23,000 websites compared to two billion today.) Years later, with the advent of broadband connections, the universality of online personal banking, and the known intervention by hackers and foreign governments in elections, the warning issued here seems prescient while also quaint and small-scale. A hired killer shoots people, sabotages a plane, and arranges for administration of a deadly medication. A couple is seen under a blanket, presumably after sexual relations. Language is infrequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and "ass." Computer hackers put an AIDS false positive report in a man's medical record and he commits suicide as a result. A man takes out a gun and a shot is heard off-screen, implying suicide. A man uses a knife to cut himself superficially; blood is seen. A woman is shot dead and lies in a pool of blood. A woman attacks her assailant using a heavy fire extinguisher, and this sends him over a railing to his death.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE NET, Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is a Los Angeles computer expert who works remotely for a San Francisco software firm debugging computers. Her few friends are online. Her boss has never seen her. The virus expert at work has never met her, either. Her mother (Diane Baker) lives at a facility for advanced Alzheimer's care and wouldn't know Angela from a nurse. The virus expert friend wants to talk IRL (in real life) to discuss a disturbing program he's found that seems to be hacking into government, banking, hospital, and other systems through a supposed cybersecurity program. Before they can meet, that friend is killed in a mysterious plane crash. Angela blithely proceeds with her Mexican vacation, but doesn't put two and two together until Jack (Jeremy Northam), a handsome stranger she meets on the beach, proves to be a murderous agent of the hacker. Her identity is not only erased through DMV, Social Security, and other records, but Angela, fingerprints and all, is given a new name and a rap sheet that includes prostitution and drug crimes, putting her on law enforcement's radar. Another hacker in on the scheme has taken over her identity at work and put her house up for sale. Angela sneaks into her old firm's system and discovers the plot and its perpetrators. Although still being chased by killers, she manages to sabotage the saboteurs and restore her identity.
Is it any good?
The Net is an efficient, high-anxiety thriller about people who generally sit at their desks and peck at keyboards -- but who in this case run around evading pistol-packing cyberterrorists. For maximum enjoyment, viewers would do best to give in to the Hollywood glitz and suspend disbelief regarding the massive conspiracy. The filmmakers had a persuasive point to make about the outsized role computers were playing in our lives, so we can forgive the fact that back in 1995 most internet access was gained by agonizingly slow dial-up modem, complete with screechy dial tones, dropped connections, and halting downloads. To keep up with the movie's racing pulse, on-screen doings nevertheless happen remarkably fast here. Plus, it's unclear why the big bad hackers, employees of an evil software mogul, are after Angela. Why do they need a disc containing their own virus? And why, even after she tells them the disc in question was destroyed, do they continue to pursue her? Never mind, it's part of the Hitchcockian randomness and mistaken identity at the heart of this. (Note that as in Hitchcock's Notorious, a handkerchief is used cleverly.)
That said, Bullock brings her low-key, natural believability to a role that requires we accept her as a shy, isolated loner who is also a fiercely determined warrior. Northam's portfolio as sleek killer is less nuanced but equally well executed. Using music and canny editing, director Irwin Winkler deftly renders numbers flashing on a screen into the heart-racing equivalent of a digital car chase.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of online safety. What are some good ways to protect yourself on the internet?
How do you handle the fact that you don't always know the real identity of people you meet online?
Do you think the convenience of the internet makes up for the danger it poses in people's lives? Do you worry that cell phones and credit cards make you easily trackable? Do you feel that information you receive online is reliable? How do you verify your sources?
- In theaters: July 28, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: February 7, 2006
- Cast: Sandra Bullock, Jeremy Northam, Dennis Miller
- Director: Irwin Winkler
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for violence, some sexuality and brief strong language
- Last updated: May 1, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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