by E. Ladd
In Michael Mann’s newest film Blackhat, Chris Hemsworth, best known for his role as Thor in the Marvel Studios films, plays a hacker named Nicholas Hathaway who is sprung from jail by his former MIT roommate, Chinese security analyst Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom), to help track down a villainous “blackhat hacker” who has caused a meltdown at a Chinese nuclear power plant. Hathaway and Chen are joined by Chen’s sister Lien (Tang Wei), who’s also a computer expert, and American FBI agents Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) and Mark Jessup (Holt McCallany) as they race from Chicago to L.A. and then to Hong Kong and Jakarta to track down the criminal mastermind who is clearly looking to cause more destruction.
As far as cyberthrillers go, this is one of the better that I’ve seen. The cinematography is top notch, stylish and visually stunning, from the opening scenes of the computer code twisting it’s way through a network of circuitry to the sweeping cityscapes and the future noir feel of the neon-tinged Hong Kong streets at night. The camera work is gritty and in-your-face, lending a sense of realism which effectively amps up the tension. When Hathaway, Dawai, and a crew of Hong Kong police are pinned down in a firefight with the villain’s henchmen you feel as if you’re actually in it, with bullets whizzing past your head. You’re drawn into their world and what could have been generic, big Hollywood action scenes feels more impactful, akin to documentary footage. It’s well done.
The characters are minimally fleshed out but you have enough emotion invested to actually care what happens to them. Chris Hemsworth isn’t completely believable in the role of a brilliant computer hacker, especially because he knows how to handle a gun and has impressive self-defense skills. And the fact that he looks like Thor. How did he acquire these skills? How does he manage to keep calm in a radiation filled environment with an eight minute window of time? Why are they allowing him to carry a weapon when he’s still considered a prisoner of the US government? What’s his back story? We aren’t meant to know, it seems. There isn’t time to spare on these sorts of details as the story moves forward at a frenetic pace.
Blackhat is entertaining. They threw in a love story and the action and twisty plot maneuvers will keep you on the edge of your seat. They even managed to create a somewhat believable depiction of hacking. Well, almost. There are a few ridiculous plot points, one being the phishing of an NSA agent. And although it’s not on par with some of Mann’s previous films, most notably Last of The Mohicans, Heat and The Insider, it still manages to deliver as good suspense thriller material.
Watch the trailer for Blackhat
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