WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Girl in the Spider's Web, in theaters now.
1995's Hackers is one of the most popular cult films of all time. Its stance on anti-establishment, to this day, remains an influence on movies and television shows, ranging from the likes of Fight Club to The Matrix to Mr. Robot.
After watching the new adventures of Lisbeth Salander from director Fede Álvarez, it's apparent that the vigilante's penchant for digital anarchy in The Girl in the Spider's Web makes this movie one that's worthy of being deemed the Hackers of the current millennial generation.
Digital Social Justice Warriors
Hackers cast high schoolers as its social justice warriors, an unlikely team who attempted to stop the theft of millions of dollars from the Ellingson Mineral Company. An older hacker, employed as the company's security guru, is trying to pull off the job himself, framing the kids in the process. What could have been a story that was all about a group of kids simply attempting to clear their names instead positions the hackers as genuinely altruistic, wanting to foil the villain so the company doesn't go bankrupt and lay off thousands.
In Spider's Web, Lisbeth is also using her expertise for good. The prequel saw her hacking and digging up dirt as a private investigator, but here, she's hacking to save victims of abuse. Lisbeth wants to make Sweden a better place, so she's giving victims new identities, transferring money to them from their abusers, and basically helping them rebuild their lives.
Digital Money Thefts
Hackers saw Jonny Lee Miller's Dade, Angelina Jolie's Kate and their gang working tirelessly when they realized the "Da Vinci" virus they found when Ellingson's super-computer, The Gibson, the film's super-computer, was first hacked by one of their own -- but it was a distraction, one that allowed the thief's real worm to hide in the system and slowly siphon off funds while the company tended to the first virus. This big twist was that the villain doing all this was the company's own digital security expert, Eugene (Fisher Stevens) aka The Plague.
In Álvarez's sequel, there's also a huge digital misdirection a the heart of the story's MacGuffin: A program called Firefall, which grants its user control of the world's nuclear missiles. Lisbeth's sister, Camilla, and her terrorist group, the Spiders, steal Firefall and are selling it on the black market. The Swedish Secret Service allies with Lisbeth to stop them, only to betray her to buy the program themselves. But the real twist comes when Camilla kills them, revealing the original hack was a distraction to allow her crew to hack and steal $25 million from the government.
The Big Hack
As Dade, Kate and Co. try to stop The Plaque's sinister hack in Hackers, they realize they have to hack the Gibson themselves in order to copy the "Da Vinci" and the second worm so they can pin the else hacker to the crime. With Eugene framing them and the Secret Service hunting them down, they roller-blade all over New York City, hacking the traffic light grid, using payphones, acoustic couplers and whatever technology they could get their hands on to attack the Gibson. They also get other hackers to join in, distracting Eugene, which allowed them to steal the evidence needed for his arrest.
Lisbeth also undertakes a genius hack to free NSA agent and creator of Firefall Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), whom she wants to work with her. She hacks the Stockholm airport, freeing Needham from immigration after the Secret Service attempts to deport him, manipulates the computer systems and cameras into letting him through certain gates, and then locks security down also. This allows Needham to stroll out the airport with her to go stop the Spiders.
And, perhaps the simplest sign that this is the spiritual successor to the mid-'90s cult classic is that Lisbeth's back-up hacker is nicknamed "Plague," too. A nice callout to Hackers' villain, whether intentional or not.
In theaters now, The Girl in the Spider's Web, directed by Fede Álvarez, stars Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, Claes Bang, Christopher Convery, Synnøve Macody Lund and Vicky Krieps.