A hacker comes out of prison to stop a digital terrorist.
Michael Mann is back, and he’s made a film that seems to be aiming to annoy as much of the audience as possible.
For my part, I thought it was fitfully entertaining. Mann still has a great eye, with style oozing from every slick panning shot and digitally crafted wide angle view. He’s also fond of the handheld stuff which might cause problems for those prone to motion sickness.
He’s also still adept at pulling off punchy set pieces, and still has some of the best-sounding guns around. People get hit and stay down in Michael Mann’s films, and there’s a sense of immediacy about his action which makes it feel far more real than any stage-bound melee.
There’s still great evidence of artistry in everything that he does, and that includes the visualisation of hacking which introduces the film and recurs throughout. I found touring through the inside of a chip, all the way down to the nano-level, intriguing and thrilling stuff, with each bit and byte of data flitting past the camera in ranks of free flowing light, looking like nothing so much as a siege writ in 1s and 0s.
But then there’s all the other stuff. Blackhat’s most grievous is in thinking that this digital-age, multinational thriller needed a romance angle, leading to far too many minutes watching Chris Hemsworth and co-star Tang Wei mooning at eachother.
It’s utterly terrible stuff, grinding the movie to a halt every time. And it makes next to no sense – who has time for cuddling in the midst of an international crisis?! And it’s particularly insulting to Wei – a character who is introduced as being absolutely essential to the mission who ends up doing nothing but waiting around for men to let her act.
There are some good performers here but they’re mostly wasted – Hemsworth gets an irritating accent, Wei gets caught up in jargon and a pro like Viola Davis is given next to nothing to do.
But without question Blackhat’s biggest sin is that it’s all quite dull. Despite the stakes, no one seems overly fussed about anything and the few moments of drama or urgency are quashed by talking about stocks or coding. We don’t even get a villain until the film is nearly over and by then he’s little more than something for Hemsworth to growl at.
A missed opportunity for all involved, at least Swordfish had bullet-time and a zany John Travolta.