With every technological leap forward, there is some part of it that can, and is, utilized for more nefarious purposes. With credit cards came fraud. With cell phones came selfies. With the internet came hacking. The most sinister of all is that with Michael Mann came Blackhat, nearly tainting Chris Hemsworth for the general public.
Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is in prison for a slew of cyber crimes, but when two separate attacks (one on a Chinese reactor and another on an American one) are remotely perpetrated by the same person, a joint effort between China and America is created, led by Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) from China and Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) for the US. Dawai recognizes parts of the code and insists he needs the help of his old friend Hathaway to solve the problem. They follow the code from Chicago to Los Angeles and all the way across the ocean to Hong Kong and then finally to Jakarta, only to find that this network of cyber terrorists is planning something much more devastating. With the help of Dawai’s sister, Lien (Wei Tang), who is also a technological savant, they must try and stop the next attack, which is likely to claim a lot more lives than the first one.
With the recent Sony hacks, Anonymous group, and all sorts of cyber crimes, Blackhat‘s subject matter is very relevant, and in that respect director/co-writer Michael Mann does a good job. The story feels fresh, even if it is a bit on the technologically farcical side. The story is convoluted, but the cast is there to keep it as grounded as possible, most notably Viola Davis, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Hemsworth’s bare chest, which probably gets the same if not more screen time than Davis. The depiction of American and Chinese political relations, and the fine line that needs to be toed by both sides even when “full” cooperation is promised, is the most realistic representation in the entire film. The entire film could have been nothing but examining that relationship while trying to capture a mutually harmful criminal, and it would have been a better final product than what we got.
Any and all goodwill this film had built up with the talented Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis is quickly squandered by the filming style and cinematography. The very topical story would have been more hard-hitting and engrossing if you weren’t bogged down by the outdated feel of the filming. Blackhat has all the technical pizzazz of a made-for-tv-movie that was made in the ’90s. Although the handicam filming style gives the film a gritty and real aesthetic, it still lacks a certain polished feel that you need to have when tackling such a current problem involving advanced technology. Instead, you get blurry close-combat fight scenes and a stylistically dull trip into the cinematic doldrums that is Mann’s film. Even the first person sequences through the computer system feel like a dated Intel commercial.
Blackhat is a journey down the cyber rabbit hole, only instead of finding a land of wonder, you’re stuck with a land reeking of stagnation and surrounded by tedium, but with fleeting glimpses of beauty. Ultimately, the film just ends up being a placeholder for Hemsworth in between Marvel films, not really worth the bloated 135-minute running time unless you really can’t wait to see Hemsworth shirtless. Personally, I’d wait for The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
RATING: ★★★(3/10 stars)