I’m not one of those hardcore action auteurists who claims Paul W.S. Anderson is the best Anderson, Tony Scott is the best Scott, or the latest Universal Soldier sequels are masterpieces. But when it comes to Michael Mann, jeez… he can make a farfetched movie full of generic action elements where Thor plays a computer hacker and it still comes out great. This movie’s trailer make it look ridiculous. There’s no way to convince any right-thinking person that Blackhat (or Miami Vice) is a good movie based on plot description. But to see it in motion is a whole different thing. It’s one thing to talk tech about framing and light and editing, it’s another to experience it in a work of art – from Jauja on one side to Blackhat on the other. I’m not saying it’s my favorite movie (made the bottom rung of my top 30 of the year), just want to emphasize that it’s a very good, an impressive work, not to be confused with your standard fun action flick like Mission: Impossible 5.
Thor is assisted by old friend Dawai (Leehom Wang), and falls for the friend’s network-engineer sister Lien (Wei Tang: Leehom’s Lust, Caution costar, also in this year’s Office). Viola Davis is another ally, and the under-armed Thor will need all of those he can get against a militarized terrorist hacker whose goal turns out to be personal enrichment, not state or religious warfare. The movie got me rooting for the U.S. government agencies with unlimited resources, but of course cyber-criminal Thor is no gov’t puppet and escapes them at the end. Meanwhile, Mann out-Finchers Fincher, the camera zooming inside a computer from ethernet to transistors.
Keyboard from underneath:
J. Cataldo for Slant:
Hemsworth is never entirely convincing as imprisoned genius hacker Nicholas Hathaway, but he does work fabulously as a chunk of human marble, hurtled through a series of inventively shot, fluidly frenetic set pieces … Mann expands on the woozy handheld work that made Collateral and Miami Vice so tactile and entrancing, his camera collapsing the spaces between bodies and objects without sacrificing spatial coherence, creating an artfully abstract collective muddle as neatly structured systems collapse into one another.
Adam Cook for Mubi:
The results are far from what one would call traditional realism. Instead, what we have is a sensory realism that wants you to know how guns fire bullets, and what it feels like when they do, and the means to do so are impressionistic, unusual, and embrace both the advantages of digital technology and its “flawed” properties that can render individual images strange, pixelated, and alien … Locating the evolution of this digital language as solely something within the art/artist is reductive: the world has changed, is changing, and Mann isn’t just using the latest tools for kicks, but is implicitly keeping up with our relationship to the world, which retains the same dramas, tragedies, and dilemmas, yet shifts in its forms and manifestations.
As usual, Cinema Scope’s take is the best, but unusually it’s because Adam Nayman doesn’t take sides. From an I.T. point of view, the only time I called total bullshit was when the whitehat hax0rz showed up in person to a bank and stole all the money by gaining access to the front-desk receptionist’s computer.