6 / 10
I remember my first computer. Might as well have bought a $900 deck of cards. Turns out, while I was shooting the stuffing out of the moon on the Hearts table, other more ambitious computerers were learning how to remotely detonate power plants. Which is why Blackhat is about them and not me. But I’m probably better at Hearts.
I’ll admit I didn’t understand ALL the “computer stuff” in Blackhat, but what I did get was this: a vicious and mysterious cyber attack against Chinese and American interests forces these two frenemies (fren-em-countr-ies?) to work together. Each frenemcountry (I’m going with it) dispatches their smartest, handsomest hacker (handsome, nice hackers are called ‘white hats’) to cyber-track The Bad Guy (mum’s basement hackers are called ‘black hats’) and unplug his computer before he can hit Enter again.
Representing China is Captain Chen, a sharp, crisply-uniformed up-and-comer whose effortless American accent helpfully reminds us that, even though he’s the Chinese guy in a cyber terrorism movie, we’re still allowed to like him.
Captain Chen brings along his sister, because, well…
Not to be outdone, America sends Thor.
By having attractive, physically capable actors play brainy, highly computer literate protagonists, Blackhat challenges our stereotypes of how attractive and physically capable a computer hacker should be. And simultaneously loses most of its credibility for not obeying those stereotypes.
Also, to be fair, having models play mastermind hackers seems unjust when there are real-life nerd actors nagging for a role. Watching from home, Michael Cera, Paul Dano and Mr Chow from The Hangover must have been screaming at their 3D TVs.
As if to rub-in the insult, Thor handles his keyboard with the dexterity of a drunk panda. He may as well have used his hammer.
Here’s a short clip from Blackhat in which Chris Hemsworth tries to delicately hack into the mainframe.
(The problem with using GIFs in reviews is that you spend one hour writing a review and three hours looking at panda videos on the internet.)
Anyway, like they so often do in movies, things escalate, and there’s enough action and/or tension dribbled throughout to keep it all mildly entertaining. For a film that’s central message seems to be about how much hackers can do without leaving their mum’s couch, Captain Chen and Thor travel to a surprising number of countries to track down The Bad Guy. When the black hat is finally revealed, he’s both underwhelming and hatless, which makes him probably the most realistic character of them all.
Meanwhile, it becomes increasingly clear that the only reason sister Chen is here, is so Thor can sleep with her. Sadly, in every other way she’s at best redundant and at worst unhelpful. This would never happen in Canada.
So, yes, there’s enough frenetic gunfire and sudden deaths of fairly major characters (keep an eye out for veteran cops nearing retirement) to remind you that this is a Michael Mann film and he made Heat. But it’s not Heat. Nor is it Hearts. Basically Blackhat is better than Hearts but not as good as Heat. Take that as you will.