As computer and security hobbyists and professionals, I’m sure we all go to movies and take special note when something in our field comes up, from door locks to computer terminals displaying code to fuzzy images being blown up to reveal faces. Some of these make us cringe in wild distaste which pulls us out of the suspension of disbelief in the film experience while others make us smile and slightly nod in agreement, making a mental note to share with our other geek buddies.
I have made a new category for this site called, simply, movies. In this category I want to make mention of movies that utilize a particular bit of computer use or security use and point out what is inaccurate about it. In fact, I’m going to call it Computer and Security Use in Movies (CSUM).
Just to get a few ground rules out of the way, I will largely exclude sci-fi movies that assume advancements in technology make certain things possible or different from how we know computer security today. I also only want items that seem important to some degree to the plot of the film, and not just some extraneous bells-n-whistles item from the background. For instance, nothing from Star Trek will count.
I will score each incident based on some criteria, modeled after a security assessment:
Inaccuracy: 1-5 (5 being ridiculously inaccurate and 1 being only minorly inaccurate)
Inaccuracy is used to scale exactly how ridiculous a particular use of computers and security is portrayed. Something that is not ridiculous at all, and, in fact, might be entirely accurate may be able to score a rare 0 in this category, thus ensuring a total score of 1. A 1 is the ultimate score.
Criticality to plot: 1-5 (5 being critical to the plot or film experience and 1 being trivial)
If an inaccuracy is highly critical to a plot, it becomes less forgiving by the audience. Likewise, inaccuracies in smaller, less important parts of the film can be overlooked. This is a scale on how important the situation is for the movie as a whole.
Ease of correction: 1-5 (5 being extremely difficult or impossible to correct without the plot or film experience falling apart, 1 being extremely easy to fix without impacting the film)
If an inaccuracy is easy to correct, it really shouldn’t have been a mistake in the first place, and might just be the fault of the technical advisor or writer, or maybe even an artistic decision because the real deal is boring to portray. Something that is extremely difficult to correct means that inaccuracy is so deep, there really is no way to save or spin it without running into major problems. This is essentially the scale of how badly wrong a movie gets this situation.
The total is the product of all three numbers multiplied together to give a score from 1 to 125. Hopefully no movie scores 125 as that would be a ridiculously innaccurate, critical situation in the film that has zero hope of being fixed without the film falling apart. Feedback and suggestions on better scoring are welcome!