Echelon Conspiracy

The box-office suicide title refers to the National Security Agency’s database for collecting surveillance material. Echelon Conspiracy’s "chilling" what-if proposition is that it should become a sentient, self-operating force—aptly, the screenplay’s blind trowelling of action clichés ("You try to run and I will hunt you down!") seems like the work of Final Draft operating on its own. Or of Pat Hobby. Or of… Iron Eagle scribe Kevin Elders. Shane West, apparently being paid for every finicky overreaction, is an American tech guy abroad, swept into a Mysterious International Conspiracy after his random receipt of a clairvoyant cell phone that text messages him the keys to easy money… and easy death. Exposition is reeled out with Bangkok, Prague, and Moscow variously visible in the background. Edward Burns, with his eternal air of midtown bartender, drops in as a casino detective/ex government operative. Digressions to dyspeptic overseer Martin Sheen in a commercial park building playing NSA headquarters open the door to some lazy-cynical Buck Fush material. Given the passivity of computer use, the "hacker thriller" is film history’s great running joke, but special attention should go to Echelon Conspiracy’s authors for conceiving a climax that tries to juice tension out of someone using a search engine and staring at a download countdown.

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