The honor of the first major movie of 2015 goes to Michael Mann and his new cyber thriller Blackhat. While the film stars Chris Hemsworth, the centerpiece of the film is our collective Internet paranoia in the digital age. Blackhat not only effectively conveys the spacey nature of information bouncing back and forth circuits and microchips in our computers and around the world, but it also effectively dulls an audience's attention with mundane techno mumbo-jumbo.
Blackhat follows a cyber terrorists, or hacker, who wants to simply steal loads of money from American and Chinese institutions through computer manipulations and intimidation. The movie starts with a series of explosions from Chinese power plants and slowly (that's the key word here) unfolds into a globetrotting races to catch a villain. Chris Hemsworth stars as an Nicholas Hathaway, an elite hacker who is sentenced to 15 years in prison for cyber terrorism. He's the only one on the planet that can stop the villains because he wrote the code the terrorist are using to wreak havoc all around the world.
With a running time of 133 minutes, Blackhat could easily cut out an hour of its running time and not miss a beat. In fact, the film doesn't even start to unfold or pick up until an hour into the movie, when our heroes travel to China. The first hour of Blackhat is a slow burn of International nonsense and computer programming jargon that goes beyond the average person's comprehension. But that's just par for the course for Michael Mann, who's interested in exploring almost every facet of his subjects.
In the film's second half, Blackhat abandons its slower pace and picks up considerably with heavy and thrilling action and suspense. Michael Man has a way of putting action scenes together that feel visceral and engaging, but it's a shame that he couldn't put that attention to detail with the film's story and love interest, which are painfully blank and hollow. While Mann tackles tough issues about cyber terrorism, Blackhat is almost a modern day James Bond parody, but rooted in some sort of super stylized realism.
While I can only really recommend Blackhat to hardcore Michael Mann fans, it seems like general audiences might get lost with its subject matter and how it unfolds. Hemsworth doesn't add much to the narrative mess, while it seems that the film could've done with another pass in the editing room. Blackhat is deeply flawed, but when the film does work, it soars. Sadly, those moments are very few and far between for this viewer.