Antitrust (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Howitt
Written byHoward Franklin
Produced byNick Wechsler
Keith Addis
David Nicksay[1]
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byZach Staenberg
Music byDon Davis
Distributed byMGM Distribution Co. (United States)
20th Century Fox (International)[2]
Release date
  • January 12, 2001 (2001-01-12)
Running time
109 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[3]
Box office$18.2 million[4]

Antitrust (also titled[5] and Startup[6]) is a 2001 American techno thriller film written by Howard Franklin and directed by Peter Howitt.[7][8]

Antitrust portrays young idealistic programmers and a large corporation (NURV) that offers a significant salary, an informal working environment, and creative opportunities for those talented individuals willing to work for them. The charismatic CEO of NURV (Tim Robbins) seems to be good-natured, but new employee and protagonist Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe) begins to unravel the terrible hidden truth of NURV's operation.

The film stars Phillippe, Rachael Leigh Cook, Claire Forlani, and Robbins.[9] Antitrust opened in the United States on January 12, 2001, and was generally panned by critics.[8]


Working with his three friends at their new software development company Skullbocks, Stanford graduate Milo Hoffman is recruited by Gary Winston, the CEO of the software corporation NURV. Milo is offered an attractive programming position with a large paycheck, an almost-unrestrained working environment, and extensive creative control over his work. After accepting, Hoffman and his girlfriend, Alice Poulson (Forlani), move to NURV headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Despite development of the flagship product (Synapse, a worldwide media distribution network) being well on schedule, Hoffman soon becomes suspicious of the excellent source code that Winston personally provides to him, seemingly when needed most, while refusing to divulge the code's origin.

After his best friend and fellow computer programmer, Teddy Chin, is murdered, Hoffman discovers that NURV is stealing the code they need from programmers around the world—including Chin—and then killing them. NURV not only employs an extensive surveillance system to observe and steal code, the company has infiltrated the Justice Department and most mainstream media. Even Hoffman's girlfriend is a plant, an ex-con hired by the company to spy on and manipulate him.

In a secret NURV database of employee surveillance dossiers, Hoffman discovers highly-sensitive personal information about Lisa Calighan (Cook), a friendly co-worker. When he says he knows the company has this information about her, she agrees to help him expose NURV's crimes. Coordinating with Brian Bissel, Hoffman's old start-up friend, they plan to use a local public-access television station to hijack Synapse and globally broadcast their charges against NURV. However, Calighan is actually Winston's accomplice and foils Hoffman.

When the plan fails, and as Winston prepares to kill Hoffman, a backup plan is put into motion. Off-screen, Hoffman had previously confronted and convinced Poulson to turn against NURV; she, the fourth member of Skullbocks, and NURV's incorruptible security contractors usurp one of NURV's own work centers—"Building 21"—and transmit incriminating evidence with the Synapse code. Calighan, Winston, and his entourage are arrested by the FBI for their crimes. After amicably parting ways with the redeemed Poulson, Hoffman rejoins Skullbocks.



Tim Robbins's (left) character drew comparisons to Bill Gates (right).

Roger Ebert found Gary Winston to be a thinly disguised pastiche of entrepreneur Bill Gates; so much so that he was "surprised [the writers] didn't protect against libel by having the villain wear a name tag saying, 'Hi! I'm not Bill!'" Similarly, Ebert felt NURV "seems a whole lot like Microsoft".[10] Parallels between the fictional and real-world software giants were also drawn by Lisa Bowman of ZDNet UK,[11] James Berardinelli of ReelViews,[12] and Rita Kempley of The Washington Post.[13] Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said, "From the trailers, we couldn't tell if the movie was about [America Online] or Oracle."[11]


Principal photography for Antitrust took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, California, and Portland, Oregon.[8][14]

Stanley Park in Vancouver served as the grounds for Gary Winston's house, although the gate house at its entrance was faux. The exterior of Winston's house itself was wholly computer-generated; only the paved walkway and body of water in the background are physically present in the park.[15]: 7m51s  For later shots of Winston and Hoffman walking along a beach near the house, the CG house was placed in the background of Bowen Island, the shooting location.[15]: 13m4s  Catherine Hardwicke designed the interior sets for Winston's house, which featured several different units, or "pods", e.g., personal, work, and recreation units. No scenes take place in any of the personal areas, however; only public areas made it to the screen.[16] While the digital paintings in Winston's home were created with green screen technology, the concept was based on technology that was already available in the real world. The characters even refer to Bill Gates' house which, in real life, had such art.[15]: 10m2s  The paintings which appeared for Hoffman were of a cartoon character, "Alien Kitty", developed by Floyd Hughes specifically for the film.[15]: 76m37s [17]

Simon Fraser University served as an outdoor shooting location for NURV headquarters.

Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus stood in for external shots of NURV headquarters.[18][15]: 17m28s 

UBC's Chan Centre for the Performing Arts served as an indoor shooting location and inspiration for NURV headquarters' "The Egg".

The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was used for several internal locations. The centre's foyer area became the NURV canteen; the set decoration for which was inspired by Apple's canteen, which the producers saw during a visit to their corporate headquarters.[15]: 18m57s  The inside of the Chan—used for concerts—served as the shape for "The Egg", or "The NURV Center", where Hoffman's cubicle is located.[15]: 19m30s  Described as "a big surfboard freak" by director Peter Howitt, production designer Catherine Hardwicke surrounded "The Egg" set with surfboards mounted to the walls; Howitt has said, "The idea was to make NURV a very cool looking place."[15]: 17m28s & 20m23s  Both sets for NURV's Building 21 were also on UBC's campus. The internal set was an art gallery on campus, while the exterior was built for the film on the university's grounds. According to Howitt, UBC students kept attempting to steal the Building 21 set pieces.[15]: 51m6s 

Hoffman and Poulson's new home—a real house in Vancouver—was a "very tight" shooting location and a very rigorous first week for shooting because, as opposed to a set, the crew could not move the walls.[15]: 23m56s  The painting in the living room is the product of a young Vancouver artist, and was purchased by Howitt as his first piece of art.[15]: 70m23s 

The new Skullbocks office was a real loft, also in Vancouver, on Beatty Street.[15]: 26m9s 

Open source[edit]

Antitrust's pro–open source story excited industry leaders and professionals, with the prospects of expanding the public's awareness and knowledge level of the availability of open-source software. The film heavily features Linux and its community, using screenshots of the Gnome desktop, consulting Linux professionals, and including cameos by Miguel de Icaza and Scott McNealy (the latter appearing in the film's trailers). Jon Hall, executive director of Linux International and consultant on the film, said "[Antitrust] is a way of bringing the concept of open source and the fact that there is an alternative to the general public, who often don't even know that there is one."[11]

Despite the film's message about open source computing, MGM did not follow through with their marketing: the official website for Antitrust featured some videotaped interviews which were only available in Apple's proprietary QuickTime format.[11]


Antitrust received mainly negative reviews, and has a "Rotten" consensus of 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 106 reviews, with an average score of 4 out of 10. The summary states "Due to its use of clichéd and ludicrous plot devices, this thriller is more predictable than suspenseful. Also, the acting is bad."[19] The film also has a score of 31 out 100, based on 29 reviews, on Metacritic.[20] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A to F.[21]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two stars out of four.[10] appreciated the film's open-source message, but felt the film overall was lackluster, saying "'AntiTrust' is probably worth a $7.50 ticket on a night when you've got nothing else planned."[22]

James Keith La Croix of Detroit's Metro Times gave the film four stars, impressed that "Antitrust is a thriller that actually thrills."[23]

The film won both the Golden Goblet for Best Feature Film, and Best Director for Howitt, at the 2001 Shanghai International Film Festival.[24]

Home media[edit]

Antitrust was released as a "Special Edition" DVD on May 15, 2001,[25] and on VHS on December 26, 2001.[26] The DVD features audio commentary by the director and editor, an exclusive documentary, deleted scenes and alternative opening and closing sequences with director's commentary, Everclear's music video for "When It All Goes Wrong Again" (which is played over the beginning of the closing credits), and the original theatrical trailer. The DVD was re-released August 1, 2006.[27] It was released on Blu-ray Disc on September 22, 2015.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Antitrust". AFI Catalog.
  2. ^ a b "ANTITRUST (15)". British Board of Film Classification. February 8, 2001. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
  3. ^ "Antitrust (2001) - Financial Information".
  4. ^ "Antitrust (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Box Office Mojo LLC. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  5. ^ "" (in German). OutNow.CH. February 6, 2001. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  6. ^ "Filmlexikon FILME von A-Z - startup" (in German). Archived from the original on February 9, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  7. ^ "Antitrust (2001) - Cast and Credits". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo Inc. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  8. ^ a b c "Antitrust (2001) - Movie Details". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo Inc. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  9. ^ "Antitrust (2001) - Movie Info". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo Inc. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (January 12, 2001). "Antitrust". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  11. ^ a b c d Bowman, Lisa (January 8, 2001). "Linux to star on silver screen". ZDNet UK. CNET Networks, Inc. Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  12. ^ Berardinelli, James (2001). "Review: Antitrust". ReelViews. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  13. ^ Kempley, Rita (January 12, 2001). "'Antitrust': Battling the Evil Geek". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  14. ^ "Filmed in Oregon 1908-2015" (PDF). Oregon Film Council. Oregon State Library. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Peter Howitt & Zach Staenberg (May 15, 2001). Antitrust (DVD commentary). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
  16. ^ Catherine Hardwicke (May 15, 2001). Antitrust, "Cracking the Code" (DVD documentary). Los Angeles, California, USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Event occurs at 10:02.
  17. ^ Antitrust (motion picture). Los Angeles, California, United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. January 12, 2001.
  18. ^ "SFU in films and television". Simon Fraser University. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  19. ^ "Antitrust". Rotten Tomatoes. January 12, 2001.
  20. ^ "Antitrust". Metacritic.
  21. ^ "ANTITRUST (2001) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  22. ^ Gross, Grant (January 13, 2001). "Open Source, the movie: 'AntiTrust' reviewed". SourceForge Inc. Archived from the original on February 19, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  23. ^ La Croix, James Keith (January 17, 2001). "Antitrust". Metro Times. Detroit, Michigan, USA: Times-Shamrock Communications. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  24. ^ "Golden Goblet Award". Shanghai International Film Festival. 2001. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  25. ^ "Antitrust (2001)". Amazon. May 15, 2001. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  26. ^ "Antitrust (2000)". Amazon. December 26, 2001. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  27. ^ "Antitrust - Special Edition (DVD)". CinemaClock Canada Inc. Archived from the original on March 3, 2009. Retrieved February 27, 2008.
  28. ^ Antitrust Blu-ray, retrieved November 2, 2018

External links[edit]