**FILM REVIEW** “Blackhat”

Sunday evening and the weekend is, once again, almost over.  So, this ALSO means that the Sunday afternoon movie was in effect and therefore let’s get right to it.  The second new release this weekend sees  the newest effort from one of my personal faves in the director’s seat.  The box office numbers sadly tell a different tale than THIS reviewer will, but that’s the beauty of knowing that I simply offer what I always offer…my OPINION that everyone is free to agree or disagree with.  And therefore I present to you…..”Blackhat”.


Brought to us by Michael Mann, director of excellent films such as “Collateral“, “Heat“, and “Public Enemies“, the story initially takes us into a rather unique perspective of the inner workings of a computer system contained within a Chinese nuclear plant, and also illustrates the impact of what happens when an unknown and unwelcome element is introduced to said system.  In the wake of the resulting event, the Chinese government has one of their best agents, Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), begin investigating the situation with the assistance of his equally adept sister, Chen Lien (Wei Tang).  However, when a different type of cyber intrusion occurs in the U.S. as well, the two governments decide to work together to solve the issue.  Dawai liaises with FBI cybercrime official Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) and advises that they ultimately need the assistance of convicted and imprisoned hacker Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), who agrees to assist with terms and conditions he sets.  Being kept on a tight leash by the FBI, Hathaway begins the journey to piece together their hidden enemy’s computer codes and track them down.  As he goes, he establishes a deeper connection with Lien, even though he knows there’s no guarantee the entire endeavor will work out, which would send him back to prison.  As the group digs deeper into the situation, things begin to go in a much more dangerous path, as leads are lost, and more and more lives at placed at risk.  Undaunted, Hathaway still pushes forward, KNOWING he CAN find the “Blackhat” responsible for all the chaos, and whom has a bigger plan in place than initially realized.  Once this information is determined, the group suffers a crippling loss, leaving Hathaway and Lien to press onward and put an end to the threat.  Constantly under threat, Hathaway ALSO has been dealing with an ugly truth involving the very code being utilized to make the attacks against both countries, and only serves to strengthen his resolve to stop his hacker rival.  Finally, it becomes a true race against the clock when the endgame is revealed and Hathaway has to make the decisions that will determine whether he succeeds….or loses his freedom and possibly his life trying.  Per usual, any further details would be in the realm of spoilers and therefore, I shall not state any other plot details.

As I mentioned above, Michael Mann is still one of my overall favorite directors, as he’s always brought this slick style and atmospheric tone and feel to the movies he’s done.  And I found “Blackhat” to deliver just what I was expecting.  Utilizing his favorite time of day…night…the sweeping cityscapes of Hong Kong, Malaysia, and other foreign destinations come to glittering life and do what they always do…set a visual tone that is both coolly awe-inspiring and ominous at the same time.  Honestly, the film really comes across with the same overall vibe as an extended episode of Mann’s own original creation, the smash 80’s TV hit “Miami Vice” (I LOVED that show and, I’ll admit it, ALSO loved Mann’s stylistically updated remake in 2006) , which first showcased these particular visual preferences.  Even the daytime sequences carry their own unique “sense” of purpose in the way it’s shot.  ALL of this in tandem with another of Mann’s trademark film attributes, the ethereal pad keyboard soundtrack music, all gels to make that ambiance of the overall effort shine.  And still more to Mann’s style, the camera work is often the close ups of actors faces or looking over their shoulder or otherwise wide shots of the vistas and venues the characters find themselves in, coupled with trademark gunfights for action sequences that are still really awesome in their own right.  Chris Hemsworth worked for me as Hathaway, though many critics did NOT share that opinion.  I mean, sure, this ISN’T “Thor”, but it’s not SUPPOSED to be and he simply plays a “regular” person effectively enough, even IF you don’t feel he looks or acts like your typical hacker…then again, what IS a typical hacker??  The supporting cast around him is solid as well, especially Lien who brings us the mix of both a vulnerable, emotional woman and one who is intelligent and most certainly NOT just “eye candy” for the movie.  Granted, this story IS a slow burn, as Mann tends to choose to build characters rather than blow us away with constant action.  So you DO have to bear with it.  And it ISN’T the most original story, of course, but then again, what in Hollywood REALLY is (unless you’re Christopher Nolan).  Given the poor reviews “Blackhat” has gotten and the dismal box office, it still mystifies me a little as to WHAT people WANTED or EXPECTED from the film to dislike it so much it seems.  Everyone has their opinions/preferences and that is perfectly fine, BUT…this isn’t Oscar material, folks.  It’s just an entertaining and mildly cerebral effort much like several of Mann’s other (admittedly BETTER overall) works.  It kept my attention, even if at times it was those awesome visual elements touted above.  I left feeling satisfied, not “WOW!!! THAT was AMAZING!!!”  THAT honor is actually reserved for “American Sniper“.  HOWEVER….I would say if you just want to NOT have to think a lot, and simply sit and enjoy a dramatic action MOVIE, this project will fit the bill.

As always, this is all for YOUR consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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