If you look at my trailer review for Blackhat you’ll see that I was on the fence about this film. But yesterday I decided to give it a chance. I knew when I entered the theater I had made a mistake. It was Tuesday, cheap night. And there were 4 people in the theater. Everyone else must have been seeing American Sniper.
I had some hopes for Blackhat despite it opening in January and being a Michael Mann film. I wanted it to be a smart cyber thriller. Which it is for the most part. It just isn’t very exciting. I don’t really like Michael Mann’s movies, and I don’t like his techniques for the most part. I saw Heat once (a film that everyone else loves) and I didn’t like it. Admittedly I was tired at the time and not fully paying attention to it though. I do like Public Enemies though (a film that everyone else hates). The first time I saw it I hated it, but on the second viewing it was quite good. Mostly because of Marion Cotillard, but there are other things to like about it as well. I hate the shaky camera thing Mann always does, it takes me out of the movie and makes me feel a little nauseous. Also the gunfire in his films is always so loud it’s almost deafening.
While I don’t like Mann for the most part, he is able to do a great action scene. There are two action scenes in Blackhat that are great, really absorbing. And the whole shaky camera, slow-mo, loud gunfire works. Amazingly. If only the whole movie could have been more like that. But it’s hard to make a movie about hacking exciting. I think having a more present score would have helped (it felt like there was nearly no music in Blackhat). The score is an integral part of creating tension and here it is very absent. A more charismatic leading man would have also helped things. Chris Hemsworth is fine, he just doesn’t bring any drama or excitement to things. I read another review that said something like “imagine Tom Cruise as the lead instead.” Someone with that kind of leading man quality would have greatly enhanced the film. The other big fault with Blackhat is the villain. He is boring. He has no motivation at all. He doesn’t even “want to watch the world burn.” The stakes don’t feel high because the villain is a non-entity for most of the film and when he and his big plan are revealed it is extremely anti-climactic.
There are a few good things about Blackhat. It isn’t dumb (except for bullet proof magazines???). The diverse cast was also quite refreshing (Leehom Wang and Wei Tang are good). Viola Davis is a standout, bringing humor to the film (Chris has a few funny lines too). But overall Blackhat is a disappointment. There’s about 10 excellent minutes and the rest is mediocre. 5/10