Directed by Michael Mann, Written by Morgan Davis Foehl

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang, Holt McCallany

Blackhat seems to have gotten a lot of bad press and I can’t quite work out why. Sure, this is far from a perfect film. But surprisingly, the miscast Hemsworth does a decent job (though I have only ever seen him as a superhero and an F1 driver), and the rest of the cast are great, Viola Davis in particular as a tired FBI agent. The globetrotting adventure is interesting and doesn’t become silly and implausible for the most part, plus Mann has not lost his ability to orchestrate a damn fine firefight. The computer hacker angle is handled well, better than most other movies tackling the subject – not a hard task I admit – but the combination of the hidden hacker world, the limited colour palette and the international backdrops help create a dystopian feeling. Unfortunately, the world of Blackhat isn’t far from the state of the world right now.


This film didn’t even get a theatrical release down under, which has me thinking that this could be Mann’s last bigger-budget outing, which saddens me as this movie has some beautiful camera work that not only makes the action scenes unforgettable, but it also pushes the limits of digital film-making to its logical extreme. The opening illustrates this as some very creative camerawork is used as special effects. It is hard to describe: the camera continues to zoom into objects until they pixelate and then turn into something else until that is zoomed in so far that the image breaks apart again into another image, rinse and repeat for a very hypnotic sequence. It is very unique, I have never seen anything quite like it, and it hooked me much like the Stargate from 2001. Multiple fascinating camera angles and shots are used as well, causing the action to look and feel like a sort of violent ballet at times, and many of the shots achieved remind me of Terry Gilliam and his constant crooked angles.

This photo provided by Universal Pictures shows, Chris Hemsworth, left, as Nicholas Hathaway, and Viola Davis, as FBI Special Agent Carol Barrett, in Legendary’s film, "Blackhat," from director/producer Michael Mann. (AP Photo/Legendary Pictures - Universal Pictures)

This is easily Mann’s best film for some time – though I did enjoy Public Enemies for what it was – and the narrative is believable despite the globetrotting that takes Nick Hathaway (Hemsworth) from an American prison to Jakarta via China and Hong Kong thanks to a massive disaster that was triggered by a malicious hacker. One of the film’s biggest strengths, behind the camerawork, is that the story is told from the perspective of the Chinese government. Had this followed the US government in a similar situation, the movie really would have been a bore. But following the story from the side of the Chinese gives the film a unique feeling, though we do also follow the actions of the FBI who have freed Hathaway, keeping him on a leash so he can help them stop the hacker responsible for the disaster that began the movie. Hathaway may be a hacker, but he is also willing to physically cross borders without a second thought. This separates him from a good majority of other hackers, most prominently the main villain of the movie, who’s destructive behaviour and disregard for human life angers Hathaway enough to make this hunt across the globe personal. Pivotal plot points add to the story, feeding Hathaway in his quest for vengeance. The narrative twists and turns, and the cast of characters make it hard to pinpoint who the real villain is. In addition to this, while I usually rally against love stories in films like this, it actually serves a purpose here, rather than being there just for the hell of it.


In saying all this though, Blackhat is far from perfect. Hemsworth does better than one would expect, but he is still miscast, and scenes of him in prison with hair looking perfect – as if he had an infinite supply to hair gel – seem a bit silly. The script isn’t anything impressive either, but it isn’t horrible. The final act was underwhelming to say the least, especially after the firefight that precedes it. It looked nice, but was absurdly implausible. The film also takes a long time to kick off, talk about a slow burn. But it is worth it, even just for the orchestral action scenes alone – though with only two major firefights, I can’t help but feel a little short-changed; I think the film could have been more fun and filled with more action, rather than dwelling on the politics and the world of underground hackers, though the latter was well realised.

I don’t quite understand why this film was received so poorly. Yeah it should have been a different actor playing Hathaway, almost any actor, but he gets the job done. And I’m sure he is a looker for the ladies. Plus it is fantastically shot and has some great action that only falls down during the final act, though the very final scene is fantastically shot, and leaves the story open for thought.

3.5/5 – This and Citizenfour would make a GREAT double billing to open the eyes of the world to the society we really live in.

24 Comments on “BLACKHAT [2015]

  1. Interesting…I haven’t seen it yet as it wasn’t on near me, but I’m keen to as a Mann fan. The first few reviews I read were overwhelmingly negative, but since then I’ve read a lot of praise. I can’t quite see Hemsworth as a hacker either but glad to know he does ok.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is certainly miscast but he does a much better job than I was expecting him to.

      This is worth the watch though for the camerawork and the firefights, god they looked good!!!

      Thanks for reading mate 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. (Black) hats off to you Jordan for giving this film a positive review. You’re right, I think this film was mostly treated harshly but I personally was left numb by all the hacker jargon and technical mumbo-jumbo. It kind of bored me and a lot of the acting was pretty terrible. It’s great to know it found another fan though. There are certainly worse movies out there than this.


    • Yeah it is definitely far from perfect. It helps that I am a computer geek, so the hacker world grabbed me. And the camerawork, god I loved the camerawork.

      And I think almost any decent actor could have done the role of a hacker much better than a slick haired, muscle-bound Hemsworth. It did look a bit silly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice one Jordan – it is on my list for a Blu Ray viewing when released – it is scrubbed from cinema in Australia – I think Sydney got one screening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that is what makes me think this will be Mann’s last bigger budget films. Which sucks as he can sure put together entertaining firefights. This movie needed more of them though, too many lulls in movie for me. But its a lot better than it gets credit for IMO


      • Umm, not really. I know this sounds cliche, but for me its the truth… I honestly can’t really tell if a guy is ‘hot’ or ugly or whatever. People think I am bullshitting when I say that, don’t wanna sound gay or something, but its the honest truth. I can’t tell if someone, male or female, is ugly, unless they are deformed or something. People are just people to me.

        heh I’d never be able to do some of the posts you do cos I honestly don’t really know what is hot and what isn’t

        Liked by 1 person

      • Why thanks for complimenting me on my skills. I believe that everyone has something attractive about them. Surely you’ve got to have a man crush, every guy does right.


      • If I was to say one I’d honestly be just picking at random. I have a hard time telling if a girl is hot or not, let alone a guy. I’ll hear people calling a girl fat and I just won’t see it. Its bizarre, but makes sense cos my epilepsy is apparently very similar to aspergers, and they have similar problems, an inability to judge people. It is good but bad, I often end up trusting the wrong people and get myself fucked over.

        heh fuck sorry for the overlong reply. If I was to pick a man-crush it’d be because of their acting skills. So I guess if I were to have one it’d be someone like DDL or Joaquin Phoenix.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really wanted to love this movie as I LOVE Michael Mann. But the casting of Hemsworth was worrisome and he confirmed my dread. Not only was he not believable at all as a hacker, the movie was boring as heck. Not to mention the hackneyed *romance* that have zero chemistry, blech! It pains me to say because it was partly shot in my hometown Jakarta, but even the seemingly cool setting at the end w/ the Nyepi celebration wasn’t all that exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that climax wasn’t much was it? And I certainly can’t argue about Hemsworth being miscast! For me it was the universe created and how well it was shot that made this half decent for me. I’m a sucker for good camerawork. But there is no doubt that this coulda been better… a whole lot better.


      • Haha! What a guy! How does he do it?!

        I think I’d enjoy giving this a whirl 🙂 and erm….perving on Hemworth?! No comment! (YES!)


      • Hahaha! Yes I imagine it would be great to have a perv. Otherwise he is horribly miscast 😛 But does a decent job, not great but not bad either. Its a great looking movie too, definitely worth a watch IMO

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: IN THE HEART OF THE SEA [2015] | epileptic moondancer

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