Netflix UK film review: I.T.
Ivan Radford | On 11, Mar 2017
Director: John Moore
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Anna Friel, Stefanie Scott, James Frecheville
Watch I.T. online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Xbox / Sky Store
In 2015, the word “cyberthriller” was dragged into the modern day by Mr. Robot and Blackhat. In 2017, I.T. is here to take it straight back to the 90s.
Sam Esmail’s TV series and Michael Mann’s film tapped into the time-honoured themes of paranoia and surveillance, but with a topical understanding, kinetic energy and bang up-to-date visuals. I.T. taps into those same ideas, but without any understanding or excitement whatsoever.
That’s partly because our protagonist is Mike Regan, a middle-aged bloke with little knowledge of computers or phones or the interwebs. He’s an aviation tycoon looking to Uber-ise his business, but remains an analogue man in a digital world. So when a big presentation of his product has a technical hitch, he sits there looking embarrassed until new tech intern Ed (James Frecheville) fixes it – and promptly rewards him with a permanent job.
So pleased is he, in fact, that he asks Ed to come over to his house at the weekend, because his teenage daughter, Kaitlyn (Stefanie Scott), keeps complaining that their Wi-Fi is slow. From the moment Ed claps his eyes on Mike’s smart home set-up, we can tell that things are going to go wrong. And when Mike snubs Ed, after he starts to stalk their family, that’s exactly what happens.
Pierce Brosnan does a decent job as Regan, the fish-out-of-water entrepreneur, who’s so caught up in his own success that he’s become detached from the real world. Offering extra unpaid work is his idea of a reward for an employee. His wife is played by a wasted Anna Friel, who is in the script almost solely to operate his coffee machine. Even when he physically lashes out at this intruder in his home, he’s puffily middle-aged in a way that’s oddly convincing.
But any hint of ambiguity over who the bad guy is in this story is swiftly brushed away by outdated broad strokes that sink the whole thing, leaving gaping holes where logic and suspense should be. What is Ed’s motivation beyond getting revenge? Why does he sit in a hacker cave full of green and red lights? Who set up the monitors on his wall so they were all wonky and weirdly aligned? How does he never have trouble controlling Regan’s system due to bad connectivity issues or an incompatible cable? And why does Regan have a smart home to begin with, when he doesn’t understand any of it?
James Frecheville, who impressed so much in Animal Kingdom, is left with little to do other than sit in darkened room, looking angry and listening to loud music. Even the excellent Michael Nyqvist, who plays a CIA cleaner hired by Regan to get back control of his house, can’t bring a whiff of credibility to the premise.
But while things descend into cheesy nonsense, they never quite get to the stage where you can enjoy how bad it is. Dan Kay and William Wisher’s script struggles to conjure up exciting set pieces, actually relying on a garden sprinkler system to build tension. And, in a highly dubious moment, we see the teenaged Kaitlyn in the shower being recorded by Ed – a scene that’s shot by John Moore with a disturbingly voyeuristic leer. At one point, the project was going to be helmed by Stefano Sollima, who directed the Gomorrah TV series and Suburra. It would be interesting to see what I.T. might look like through his lens, but with this seemingly booted up on our screens from the late 1990s, I.T. is as dull as its title.
I.T. is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.