Review: Blackhat

Michael Mann’s cybercrime thriller is a waste of a brilliant concept, says

BG Blackhat trailer 2

★★☆☆☆

Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Wei Tang
Running time: 133 minutes

 

Michael Mann takes what could have been a fascinating and enthralling concept and manages to make it quite mundane. After a cyber attack upon a Chinese nuclear power station that causes a reactor failure, and the manipulation of the stock exchange by an unknown coding genius, Chris Hemsworth’s Nick Hathaway, who is serving an 18 year jail sentence for similar offences, is deemed to be the only person able to catch this mystery assailant.

For the first hour of the film, we are made to sit through dialogue and drama that is quite simply uninteresting. This is made worse by the fact that Hemsworth’s gruff mumbling renders the few good lines almost indecipherable. Mann tries to make the audience feel that what we are witnessing is a world on the verge of crisis, but we are just not able to buy into it. The destruction of the nuclear reactor is admittedly visually impressive – however, everything that follows lacks the sense of impending danger. This is partly because the villains at no point feel particularly menacing. The identity of the mastermind behind the cyber attacks remains hidden, and this should instil a sinister aura around this figure – however, he is simply passive and very forgettable.

The plot is quite convoluted and not effectively transmitted to the audience, unless you’re a coding postgrad, which regrettably I am not. Because of this, the action surrounding the main protagonists consists largely of Hemsworth tapping away at a keyboard, gazing melodramatically into the distance, and some unemotional romance. After Hemsworth’s tenth rhetorical question in 20 minutes, you’ll wish you were back watching the far more exciting car commercials that proceed the film.

The last half hour of the film does become a little more interesting; a sudden and shocking explosion picks up the pace, and when we eventually meet the villain (British, of course) the pretence of mysterious allure is discarded and the action becomes more frenetic. It’s still far from a Bourne-esque, heart-beating-out-of-your-chest rollercoaster, but it is much more enjoyable than the tedium that we have witnessed prior to this.

The camera work is often untidy during the action sequences, which is a shame given that the rest of the film is shot quite commendably; in particular, the opening couple of minutes of CGI that take us inside the mechanics of a circuit-board are visually beautiful. The stand out performance is that of Wei Tang, who does attempt to bring an emotional edge to the story, and appears to be the only one that is actually in the central romance. My overriding impression of Chris Hemsworth is that he really needs a bloody haircut and to do up one more button on his shirt; he brings very little to this film and for the most part is completely expressionless.

A promising concept, but unintelligible dialogue, unemotional romance and an uninteresting plot makes this film a big disappointment.

 

To book tickets to see Blackhat at York City Screen Picturehouse, go here.

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