Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

Computer Hacking In Movies

December 26, 2011
Read time 2 minutes

Hacking in movies is usually a joke. The super nerdy character is shown in front of a computer screen that usually shows bright green text on a black background, typing away at a ferocious and inhuman pace. At odd intervals the character usually mutters to himself (as it's usually a guy), alternating between grunts of joy and grimaces of pain. Ultimately a short montage of spinning clocks floats past the hacker's sweating brow until in a triumphant last-minute sprint the hacker jumps to his feet in a triumphant yell.

Ignoring the obviously contorted length of time it would normally take to conduct the hack at hand, the graphics that are usually shown on the computer screen are never near any realm of realism. Usually awkward graphics and nonsensical commands are shown being inputted into the screen, resulting in new windows popping up lush with beautiful graphics that would look more at home in a 3d rendering program.

Although not a big deal seeing these scenes so obviously misconstrued has always rubbed me in a way that I don't find altogether pleasant. That's why I was pleasantly surprised last night to find that all the old hackneyed takes on a movie's hacking scene were absent from David Fincher's new film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. In addition to hacking scenes portrayed with a level of realism I've never seen in a movie, the hacker was a woman.

I can't express to you my glee to see scenes of SQL prompts in which the hacker was constructing full fledged SQL queries, including a LEFT JOIN that I'm sure was lost on everybody but the programmers in the audience.

Although the hacking scenes were small in number each of them were portrayed with a level of truth I have never before experienced in a movie. It's the small things such as this that make an otherwise normal movie great.

Aside from its truthful hacking scenes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was an intense film that left me feeling uneasy about the human species. In other words, it was a good film, one to be watched if you can.