If Michael Mann ever made a James Bond film, then there’s a good chance that it would look and feel something like Blackhat. That’s not to say it’s a fun action-adventure – this is a gritty, sombre piece filled with atmosphere. The right elements are there but this somehow lacks Michael Mann’s trademark authenticity.
Blackhat sees Chris Hemsworth skipping across the globe in search of a cyber terrorist who has destroyed a Chinese nuclear reactor. Hemworth plays Nicholas Hathaway, a hacker released from prison who teams-up with the Chinese government to find the terrorist before he strikes again.
Blackhat gets off to a rocky start and the release of Hemsworth’s character and the initial cyber attack feel contrived to get the plot in motion. The film gains momentum once the pieces fall into place and then things move forward. It all seems a little too Hollywood for Mann, a director who usually gives his films a realistic grounding – even when the plots are a bit far-fetched. Maybe that’s because he’s working from an existing script by Morgan Davis Foehl – although the director did do an extensive rewrite.
This cyber thriller comes with Mann’s now obligatory digital cinematography. Stuart Dryburgh gives the film a wonderful visual sheen and at times the film feels like a spiritual companion piece to the director’s under-appreciated Miami Vice movie. The digital hues and sonic stylings (a soundtrack mishmash from Harry Gregson-Williams, Atticus Ross and Leo Ross) make this unmistakably Mann – even if it isn’t one of his best endeavours.
Chris Hemsworth makes for an impressive anchor for Blackhat and his presence stops the film from drifting away. Hemsworth is one of our last great hopes for a substantial leading man and he delivers a strong performance even when some of his lines come across as over- (or under-written). It’s a shame that’s his character never comes across as anything other than a Hollywood creation and his romantic involvement with Tang Wei just feels like something created in a script meeting to attract females to the film, rather than being an integral part of the plot.
It might sound like I’m being hard on Blackhat – but that’s because Michael Mann is one of the masters of modern cinema – and the film just comes across as half-baked. It’s as if the director wanted to get behind the camera because it was five years since his last film (the dismal Public Enemies) and Blackhat was the script that was closet to completion. It’s a solid thriller but it just doesn’t reach the heights of Heat, Manhunter and Thief. Those are high benchmarks to be sure but Blackhat just can’t compete.
The blu-ray comes with some interesting behind-the-scenes material. They’re informative, but like the film, they feel a little slight considering Mann’s well known attention to detail.