UK Release Date: 20th February 2015
Runtime: 133 minutes
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Morgan Davis Foehl
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis
Synopsis: An imprisoned cyber criminal agrees to cooperate with the American authorities in order to track down a dangerous hacker who is planning a huge financial scam.
A film about hacking is an incredibly timely concept given the chaos caused over the Christmas period by the attack on Sony. The notion of such a topical movie being directed by action thriller maestro Michael Mann is yet another pulse-raiser. Unfortunately, Blackhat fails to deliver on its promise.
When a cyber criminal sabotages a Hong Kong nuclear plant, FBI Agent Barrett (Viola Davis) recruits Chinese cyber warfare expert Dawai (Leehom Wang) to investigate. He discovers that the code used in the attack was co-authored by himself and college roommate Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), who is serving time in prison. Barrett organises Hathaway’s release and, along with Dawai’s sister Lien (Wei Tang), he begins to work with the authorities.
The central issue with Blackhat is that it wants to both have its cake and eat it in terms of depiction of technology. Cinema is often criticised for its reliance on people achieving miracles simply by tapping away at keyboards. Blackhat tries to avoid that, bathing the audience in technical jargon about remote access tools and computer code. However, it’s also perfectly prepared to allow Chris Hemsworth to explain the plot whilst staring at a glowing screen.
| "This isn’t about money. This isn’t about politics. I can target anyone, anything, anywhere."
Hemsworth himself is a shockingly bland presence. This is the same man who lit up Rush alongside Daniel Brühl and turned Thor into a hugely entertaining aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, he is badly miscast in Blackhat as not only the world’s most photogenic hacker, but one who is bizarrely gifted in hand-to-hand combat. The film never quite gets away with the distracting double bubble casting of a dashing action hero as a programming expert.
There’s very little for the supporting cast to do. Viola Davis gets many of the best lines, but feels sidelined, and Wei Tang is literally only there to provide a love interest and motivation for Hemsworth.
Director Michael Mann is obviously incredibly conscious of the need to make the world of the internet cinematic. However, whilst The Fifth Estate intriguingly imagined the internet as a kind of ethereal office space, Blackhat goes old school – with cameras surging along cables and through processors. It’s a desperate, and rather overcooked, attempt to create some sort of kinetic feel to proceedings in the early stages.
| "You are no longer in control."
The plot, too, falls short. It initially starts as a promising journey through cyberspace, but the internet world is soon replaced by the sound of machine gun fire and an awful lot of running about.
Despite its laudable desire to make computing work on the big screen, Blackhat never does anything original or interesting. The plot is paint-by-numbers and the acting mediocre at best. By the time the credits roll, it’s a welcome reprieve.
Pop or Poop?
There’s a reliable name in the director’s chair for Blackhat, but the focus on action almost works to its detriment as engaging plotting is in short supply.
Chris Hemsworth is hopelessly miscast and the female characters just have to stand near computers and watch the men work.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.