Made at a time when public perception of computers' abilities far exceeded their actual potential, WarGames benefited greatly from the mass confusion inherent in the onset of the home-computing movement. But it's also a relic of its era in other ways as well, tapping into a fresh vein of Cold War anxiety that arrived with the Reagan administration's new concentration on the arms race. As much as the first factor dates it and the second factor may alienate viewers who came of age after the fall of the Iron Curtain, neither element prevents director John Badham's film from still playing like a skillfully put together thriller. Though preachy (especially in its peacenik finale), from its first scene WarGames establishes a tense mood undercut only by some jokey teen banter. It's not hard to see why the film has become a cult piece among hackers -- short of time travel, there's probably no better place to find as much antiquated hardware and outdated technical jargon -- but its virtues extend beyond techno-kitsch.
by Keith Phipps review