2001 America (year this film was released)
Impressive computer coding graphics randomly insert actor names, scenes into opening credits.
Cut to tech CEO Gary Winston [Tim Robbins] pacing on stage saying,
"This business is a living organism multiplying constantly, surrounded by predators. There's no room for idle time or second-guessing. Discoveries are made hourly; new ideas are ready to be devoured, redefined. This business is binary; you're either one or a zero, alive or dead."
Cut to Winston's appearance before Congress, facing antitrust accusations, refuting them with:
"Only monopoly we have is a monopoly on excellence. This is still a free market."
"Congressman, I don't need to remind you the essence of competition has always been quite simple. Any kid working in a garage anywhere in the world, with a good idea, can put us out of business."
Cut to Gary Winston announcing:
"Three months from today, NURV [his company] will launch SYNAPSE [through which the] world can send audio, video or text on any medium. S.Y.N.A.P.S.E will wholly unite the global village."
Cut to young Stanford computer sci grads assembling makeshift computer lab in a residential garage. Four males, one female, different personalities, talk of employment and venture capital possibilities which result in comments which include "corporate recruitment losers" and "fascist monopoly" in reference to a Gary Winston NURV recruitment live-chat airing on one computer monitor.
Milo [Ryan Phillippe] and Teddy [Yee Jee Tso] are star attractions to venture capital.
Milo receives a call from Gary Winston inviting he and Teddy to corporate HQ at his expense. Teddy strongly believes in open source and objects to NURV's "inferior" proprietary capitalism. Milo and Teddy are friends and kindred spirits with opposing professional philosophies.
Milo goes, is taken to Winston's huge, beautiful private estate rather than corporate HQ.
Winston pitches the potential peripheral societal benefits of wealthy capitalism - lists altruistic ventures he supports - versus Milo's intention to create an open source startup which will be free to users except for tech support, a creation which Winston suggests will be hijacked, modified and exploited to benefit and profit others. Winston skilfully promotes eventual-greater-public-good through proprietary control and scale over naive, misplaced trust in ethical public good, the very characteristics in Milo he endeavors to exploit, those of an idealistic, naive genius, the word Winston applied to Milo as he greeted and welcomed him.
Department of Justice unsuccessfully offers Milo a competing job offer, one of substantially less salary and fewer perks.
Milo goes to NURV while Teddy and the others pursue their startup dream without him.
The movie's major themes and dynamics are at play and in conflict in the real tech and corporate world today.
"The only art left in America is business..."
Even symbiotic relationships between corporate media and technology are referenced and revealed in one plot development.
See it for those reasons and others - Winston's megalomania, his siege mentality, creepy, ruthless, insular corporate culture, beautiful cinematography [John Bailey], a bit of late, dark humor - and how themes evolve and plots resolve in thrilling, beautiful poetic justice.
Within an hour of posting the above - words about a 15-year-old movie - a Reuters news article appeared online, one which reflects a warning voiced by Gary Winston in Antitrust. The piece is about North Korea; how the Hermit Kingdom has adapted and modified technology for its own authoritarian, repressive reasons and purpose. Life imitates art and in this case, negatively and regrettably for citizens of North Korea. Here's a link to the piece: