Hacking is a terrible subject for a film.
When we think of onscreen hacking, we see lines of green code on black backgrounds, people tapping at keyboards and usually some kind of hilariously cliched conspiracy. Not exactly thrilling stuff. It’s usually necessary for it to be combined with a bit of running, punching and maybe an explosion or two to keep people interested. Will Smith vehicle Enemy of the State is a go to example, it’s not particularly ground breaking but it’s a solid and entertaining romp with a good mix of intrigue and a bit of computery jiggery pokery. That was 1998 though, and 17 years later, Blackhat adds almost nothing to the genre.
It’s cliche ridden, with cheesy special fx of cables and micro chips firing up stolen straight from The Matrix, but where Enemy of the State had a relatable average joe caught up in a political scandal and The Matrix had philosophical allegory, groundbreaking special effects and some of the best lines of Action movie dialogue ever (“I know Kung Fu”) Blackhat has… not a lot.
It is by no means terrible. Hemsworth does a decent enough job (despite it being somewhat unconvincing that Thor could work Microsoft Office let alone know how to hack into Government computers) and the surrounding cast is pretty good too. It does suffer from under using the excellent Viola Davis (although as an FBI Marshall she does have a few killer lines blackmailing a Banker into helping them) but the main problem is that it covers ground well trodden before.
Even the action scenes are post-Bourne shaky cam atrocities. We get the picture, you want us to feel like we’re in a real fire fight, now stop, NOW. The problem with this is the Digital way Michael Mann (Director) now shoots his film makes everything look awfully fake. It feels like we’re seeing a reenactment of a firefight in a Documentary film rather than being drawn into a truly engaging action scene (something the Bourne films did so well).
Even the plot is run of the mill, there’s a hacker who’s so good he got caught by the FBI and is now being released from prison to help them with their investigation. If he’s so good that he is essential to finding this new hacker then how was he caught in the first place? It all feels a little like Silence of the Lambs but with far fewer quotable lines about Liver, Fava Beans and Chianti.
When you have the skill of Michael Mann directing such a talented Hollywood star as Chris Hemsworth you simply expect so much more. Blackout fails to deliver in almost every one of the desired criteria. Missable, to say the least.