Oct 22, 2016

Tradecraft: Nineties Surveillance Movies Become Modern TV Shows

Two fun and fairly beloved Nineties caper movies about surveillance experts are being rebooted as rival TV series. Deadline reports that NBC is developing a hacker drama inspired, no doubt, by the timely post-Wikileaks success of USA's Mr. Robot, but ostensibly based on Phil Alden Robinson's classic 1992 movie Sneakers. The film starred Robert Redford as master hacker Martin Bishop (though I can't recall if it actually used the word "hacker"), who leads a Mission: Impossible-style team of surveillance experts as they conduct fake heists to test companies' security. They become embroiled in spyjinks when they're blackmailed into recovering that favorite espionage MacGuffin, a "black box" for the NSA. Bishop's arch enemy turns out to have a personal connection to his past, a set-up that lends itself well to a network series. The movie's producers Walter Parkes (who also co-wrote it) and Laurie MacDonald will executive produce the series along with Mentalist executive producer Tom Szentgyorgyi.

Meanwhile, according to Variety, ABC is taking a crack at Tony Scott's 1998 action movie Enemy of the State. The film's producer Jerry Bruckheimer is on board to produce the show, which will be written by Morgan Foehl, who mined similar territory in the 2015 movie Blackhat. The trade reports that the series is conceived not as a remake, but a sequel to the film. "Based off the movie, the show is set two decades after the original film. When an elusive NSA spy is charged with leaking classified intelligence, an idealistic female attorney must partner with a hawkish FBI agent to stop a global conspiracy that threatens to expose dark secrets and personal mysteries connecting all three of their lives." Other than a thematic similarity, it's difficult to see from that description how exactly the series relates to the movie, which starred Will Smith as a labor lawyer who becomes embroiled in a spy conspiracy involving the NSA, an assassination, and a reclusive surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman. Just as the fun of the Bruckheimer-produced The Rock was seeing Sean Connery unofficially reprising his James Bond role, the main attraction in Enemy of the State was seeing Hackman unofficially reprise his role from Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 classic The Conversation.

In addition to capitalizing on the success of Mr. Robot, shows about hacking and domestic surveillance are also obviously quite topical in the current climate. It will be interesting to see if one or both of these reboots ends up making it to series!

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