An attack on a Chinese nuclear power station is followed by a virtual spike in soy commodities on the international world markets and US and Chinese authorities agree to cooperate on finding the Blackhat (or hacker) responsible. To this end, cyber-specialist Hathaway (Hemsworth) is conditionally released from jail and reunited with college buddy Chen (Wei) – now a cyber-specialist in the Chinese military. Along for the ride is Chen’s network specialist sister Lien and US cyber-intelligence expert Carol. Mann keeps the amount of time spent watching algorithms to a judicious minimum. But the consequences of virtual crime in the physical world and the complex nature of corporate vulnerabilities (in both public and business sectors) in the age of the internet are hugely significant issues. They should serve as cause rather than just an excuse for car crashes. The script – which might consolidate character and shaky plot – doesn’t, and there’s only a faint flicker of heat in the unlikely love story. The camera work and Mann’s signature choreography of violence paper over some flaws. But for a director associated with the intense milieu studies and complex narratives of The Insider and Heat, the epithet ‘much anticipated’ lives to die another day.
Blackhat | Directed by Michael Mann (USA 2014) with Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei. Starts February 5
Originally published in issue #135, February 2015