Blackhat Blu-ray Review
With technology changing at a breakneck pace these days, embarking on a movie about hacking is a risky move. A lot can change between the time production starts to the time the film is released in theaters and if you’re not careful, your movie could be outdated before anyone even sees it. Given the subject matter, there was no way director Michael Mann was going to avoid dating his film, but he could have avoided any problems that might have caused by crafting an intelligent, exciting thriller. Unfortunately, only Mann’s biggest fans will appreciate BLACKHAT.
Someone is hacking the US and Chinese infrastructure to set off a series of attacks. After forming a joint investigation team lead by Carol (Davis) and Chen (Leehom Wang), they decide that the only way to catch the attacker is to find the best criminal hacker they can, which leads them to Nick (Hemsworth). Nick is in prison, but agrees to a deal that will set him free if he can lead them to the real hacker. This sets off an international manhunt where Nick basically turns into an Interpol agent and has free reign to do as he pleases.
It’s surprising, but the actual amount of “hacking” or technical computer lingo is pretty minimal. Michael Mann is known for his obsessive research and I was expecting a lot of technical scenes and explanations of what the hacker(s) were doing. But any explanation that was given was at the very basic level and instead the focus was more on Nick solving the mystery and less on the tools he was using to solve it. That created a bit of a problem because Nick, as a character, didn’t really fit into the story very well. In order for us to accept Nick as an authority on hacking and computers, we needed to be convinced he knew what he was doing and was truly one of the best in the world with computers. I never really got that from the film and instead, thought that the only reason he got on the case was because he knew Chen in college. That belittled the film a bit and made it hard to really get into the “hacking world” Mann was trying to craft.
But the true star of the movie was the direction of Michael Mann. Even when he’s not on his game when it comes to storytelling (PUBLIC ENEMIES, MIAMI VICE), he shoots such a beautiful film that it’s hard not to enjoy watching his movies. I found myself entranced with BLACKHAT for the cinematography and direction alone, to the point I almost got annoyed when the actors spoke because it took me out of the film. I’m not sure that’s a glowing endorsement for BLACKHAT, but fans of good direction, great cinematography and of Michael Mann will appreciate the film more than others.
But despite the directing talents of Michael Mann, he still has some consistency shortcomings as a storyteller. BLACKHAT is a good example of those shortcomings since the film is filled with empty characters and long, drawn out scenes that do little to move the plot forward. It has been a while since we’ve seen Mann at the top of his game and BLACKHAT won’t do anything to quiet his critics. But for his fans, BLACKHAT has a lot of signature Mann moments and will probably be worth the time.
Video: BLACKHAT looks beautiful on Blu-ray. A lot of the film takes place in China and some of Mann’s shots there are gorgeous, thanks to a high quality transfer.
Audio: The audio was fine.
The Cyber Threat (13:01): A clip laden feature about real life hacking, includes interviews with cast and crew.
On Location Around the World (9:29): A little bit about the locations in the film and how much better they are than just using movie set.
Creating Reality (17:02): A feature about the characters in the film and how their depth is beneficial to the film.