Blackhat – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

blackhatBlackhat – 2.5/5 – The first film in 8 years; this marks the return of Michael Mann. The creator of some really great gritty thrillers (Heat, The Insider, and Collateral), he is one that garners anyone eyes for a film aficionado.  What makes most of his work superior is his great character driven plots and deeply invoking dialogue.  With a return to something that fits in his nature; Mann delivers a film that is a little letdown, and unexpectedly not on par with his collective work.  Blackhat is a film littered with many clichés, but eventually does enough to be somewhat satisfying.

Premise: A cyber-terroristic attack leads to the Chinese and US Governments to recruit a locked-up computer hacker for help.  As the unraveling begins, Hathaway must find ‘who’ the mysterious villain is and stop them before they take down our interconnected society of the 21st century.

In the main role of Nick Hathaway we have Chris Hemsworth.  Famed from his appearance as Thor in the MCU, Hemsworth takes on a different kind of role within this film.  Being designated as a computer hacker, Hemsworth has to do a good job in creating something with deep ‘intellect’, as well as make us forget his ‘hardship’ at pulling off an American accent.  For the most part, he does an acceptable job in this role.  It takes some time to ‘believe’ him as Nick Hathaway, but once the movie makes a turn for the better (explained later) you become involved with his character.  When this happens, you are staunch and forwarding with him as he battles a path against the ‘villain’ hacker.  From his humble charisma and pinpoint line delivery, you enjoy watching him being challenged both physically and mentally.  It isn’t the best of acting given by Hemsworth, but it passes the test for this movie.  Outside of him, the rest of the cast are the basic archetypes for an ‘espionage’ style film.  In the overall scope, they are forgettable characters.  There are times when they help/service the progression of the film, adding slight depth to the overall cyber-terrorism plot.  For majority of the film (no matter if it’s the shaky first act of the latter parts) the acting is cheaply delivered.  It is pretty much unbearable to watch on screen.  The reason it is so terrible is the obviousness of the plot, but their ‘dumb’ structure to turn a blind because of how their characters must ‘link’ scenes to scenes.  It is somewhat disappointing seeing how the secondary casts are confined to not be able to act, especially when you have the likes of Viola Davis in the mix.

The direction of this film follows a very traditional setup and story progression.  With the overall genre being one that involves espionage, you would expect some layers to make it standout.  The only parts of the film that add some color is the fact it takes place in the 21st century and it involves cyber terrorism.  Outside of this, the progression is very sloppy, and development of any characters or story depth hinders the overall enjoyment of the film.  I will break it down within how it plays in the three acts:

1st act –   You have the typical procedural methods used as a basic trigger to start this film down its linear path.  We have the basic plot devices used for any cop/crime/espionage drama.  The only difference is that it feels nothing bigger than just an outline.  As it unfolds, the basic elements are dumb down, as if the audience can’t figure it out.  It goes as plot point A (Terroristic attack), leads to a reveal for plot point B (Hackers using the main characters code).  From here, they try to ‘shockingly’ make it a twist as it leads (subsequently) to plot point C (They are using it for something bigger).  With this predictable fashion, it makes the film feel dumber within the ‘intelligent’ aspect of the premise.  When you question the intelligence of the audiences, you make it hard to have any kind of grip for the whole ‘stop the bad guys in time’.  Another point to make is the secondary ‘love interest’ for the main character is forced into the story, and really has no point in being there.

2nd act – Once the film moves (goes back) to China; the film unravels into something deeper and somewhat more complex.  You start to see the purposed themes of espionage, cyber terrorism and the effects that playing this ‘cat and mouse’ game has on the main character.  You see real tension as we get to the ‘real’ computer hacking themes.  This refocuses the direction into something more enjoyable, as the main characters start to catch up with the bad guys.  You also start to see Michael Mann’s touch show within the ‘gritty’ interactions and action scenes.

3rd act – The ‘bread and butter’ of the film happens in the last act, as we see a real sense of this being a Michael Mann film.  As we go deeper into the cyber aspect, we get a good mix of hard gun battles, fights and hyped up tension from the ‘cat and mouse’ game.  As this evolved, the purpose of either party comes to the front with an ingenious revelation.  The film seems to be leading to a satisfying conclusion, but it falls in the lasting climax that is dull and predictable.  With an addition of an ‘open ending’ epilogue, you feel as if you were baited into something better than expected.

The visuals of the film are grounded, raw and visceral.  The complexion of China, U.S. and Indonesia from a ‘character’ perspective helps create real ripples throughout the film, creating an auspicious tone.  This is one of the bright spots of the film, as it helps give you a ‘dark’ flavor; a Michael Mann trait.  The score is mute, but keeps you going.

Blackhat is that film you expect in the beginning of the year; one that doesn’t deserve much attention, but still entertains on some smaller scale.  Even with the lack of character and story depth for what was setup, you still can find good parts of this film.  If you’re a Hemsworth or Mann fan, check this out as a Matinee.  If not else, just wait for a Rental, not worth a full price at the movies.

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