Patrick Stewart’s performance is the capstone of this deeply-structured film with its rather abstruse, recherché key. Christian has the genius to recognize the genius of Altman’s O.C. & Stiggs, and this puts him so far out in front of the critics that it’s no wonder they hadn’t a clue. Something like Becker’s Taps is the other main component. He Walked by Night or The Third Man completes the arrangement, the swimming pool gag is from Huston’s Victory.
The idea is filtered through a computer keyboard as hacking, the brilliant schoolboy is expelled, a security man strengthens the school’s defenses and then takes it over with a small army for ransom. The boy’s father is bidding on a cable network (WMD) for cash and software options, his rival makes a straight cash offer. The boy’s young stepsister is in the school, a private academy called Shady Glen.
The film is fast and epical at the same time, with a multitude of setups on a grand scale but underplayed to suit the modesty of the metaphor. The boy undertakes a defense of the school, the villainy of business practices reaches a new cesspool, this is a light adventure comedy on the face of it and deadly earnest. The small army is divided between gunmen on the perimeter and drillers in the basement toward the vast escape of the storm drains, while the security man negotiates for a helicopter and a fortune.
None of this, not one word or frame (and not Stewart, even), penetrated the critics, even though they insisted they’d seen Die Hard. Really, it’s a national disgrace, the critics.