Sword­fish (2001)

Dominic Sena directed this knowing and post-modern heist thriller with consid­er­able flare using a broken time-line struc­ture and many camera tricks that have only recently become possible through the use of digital tech­no­logy. The action sequences are impressive but the great virtue of the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The story revolves around a computer hacker on parole, Stanley Jobson, played by Hugh Jackman, who is manip­u­lated by a renegade ex-government agent Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) into hacking into a secret fund of nine billion dollars owned by the DEA. Predict­ably things don’t go according to plan and a spec­tac­ular show­down with the author­ities ensues accom­panied by many clever plot-twists.

Char­acter case study: char­ac­ters under pressure.

Early in the film, Jobson is ‘audi­tioned’ for the job by Shear in a night club. The scene is typical of the film in that it is a graphic, almost ‘comic book’, illus­tra­tion of a prot­ag­onist put under pres­sure in order to gain an audience’s sympathy. When Jobson passes the test, he demon­strates, not just to Shears, that he has the prowess expected of a hero.

The posses­sion of special skills or powers by the prot­ag­onist is a common feature of many popular films. Audi­ences espe­cially like to see the prot­ag­onist come into these powers; acquiring them through training (The Karate Kid, Kill Bill) or by acci­dent (Spiderman) or through some sort of predestined singling out by fate or birth (Harry Potter).

© David Clough 2010

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