Blackhat has a germ of a good movie buried in it; I was very interested to see how a director like Michael Mann would make a movie where most of the action happens in a virtual world. Hacking is perhaps the least visually interesting thing there is you’re probably doing something very similar to it right now while reading this article. Early in the film there are signs that Mann plans to tackle this dilemma there are sweeping, focused, shots of the inside of computers that switch to shots of code moving through virtual space. Unfortunately, it seems that Blackhat completely lost its collective nerve in this regard as after the first act the movie basically refuses to return to any kind of hacker stuff and just becomes a bad action movie.
The clichés in Blackhat are so brazen that I had to stop and consider that it might be some kind of brilliant subversion of the form, it isn’t. Viola Davis plays an FBI agent who cares more about stopping criminals than following the rules because her husband died on 9/11. Chris Hemsworth talks about being in prison and sounds like a professional wrestler doing a bad interview segment. Characters die but usually only after they have a moment of catharsis with another character. These Are things that have been tired and overdone longer than I’ve been alive and I can’t understand why anyone thinks it can fly anymore.
I always hate being this person but the movie is so spectacularly implausible that it destroys my suspension of disbelief. The movie opens with a nuclear reactor exploding and our heroes are walking around inside of it within a handful of days and perhaps this isn’t common knowledge but nuclear meltdowns make places completely inhabitable for centuries. They follow that up almost immediately by having a hack push the price for soybeans up by 250% and that’s almost equally impossible. There are so many ways to make money if you’re a crazy genius hacker and I wish they had picked one that wasn’t completely impossible. Furthermore, I don’t think you can have a private army roving through and shooting up Hong Kong murdering police whenever you want without having some kind of response from the Chinese government. These are immersion destroyers.
This isn’t directly related to the quality of the movie per se but I spent a lot of time focused on the aesthetics of Chris Hemsworth in Blackhat. He’s so much less bulky than he is when he’s playing Thor and I can’t decide if I think this is his natural size and he bulks up for Marvel films or if this kind of dramatic change in physique is just par for the course if you’re in the Chris Hemsworth position in Hollywood these days. He spends an incredible amount of time wearing button down shirts with the buttons open to the navel which is a look I’ve never seen in real life and can’t imagine a context where it makes sense outside of a beach. It felt like objectifying of Chris Hemsworth in a way that I’m quite surprised to see in a movie seemingly exclusively aimed at men. I don’t know how many women you can get to a rather violent movie advertised as a dry cyber crime film just by having a bunch of strong PG-13 male nudity. It’s another curious choice in a movie that can’t stop making head scratching decisions long enough to string together anything remotely coherent.