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.