2015 has barely begun and we already have some great films in theaters; among them, Michael Mann's latest flick Blackhat (check this exclusive review). The movie approaches cyberterrorism in a very unique way and one of the most interesting aspects of the film is Mann's execution of international relationships between the United States and China against the unknown cyber terrorist. Within the action/thriller movie genre, such collaboration is unusual; it is often common to see China or North Korea as the foes, not the friends. The collaboration happening in the film isn't a coincidence.
In Blackhat, Chris Hemsworth shares his screen time with Chinese-American actor Leehom Wang and Chinese actress Wei Tang, who I had the opportunity to chat with in person. I asked her about the experience of working in Hollywood and she made an interesting point:
Moviepilot: I am a big fan of Asian Cinema and right now it seems that its on the rise in the U.S.
Wei Tang: Especially for box office, right?
MP: Yes! More great titles are getting their moment with each passing year and we've seen some exciting talents come to Hollywood. Where do you see Chinese and Asian cinema at large these days?
WT: Actually, everything is becoming one world. Before, it was more difficult to get to the United States, even as a student it was difficult. But now, the gates are getting wider and wider, so maybe one day those gates will disappear and become the same together. It is just like the languages, the ancient languages are slowly disappearing and everybody is speaking the same language. That means the whole world is getting connected together.
An Increasingly Interconnected Cinematic World
The fact that Michael Mann cast a Chinese-born actress in his film rather than a Chinese-American actress for the role is a reflection of the constantly growing popularity of Asian cinema in Hollywood. Mann not only made the effort to cast an authentic Chinese-born actress to represent these relations in Blackhat, he also made sure the film was shot on location -- hand picking the sets in both Hong Kong and Jakarta. This connectivity and disappearance of borders between countries is mostly possible due to the power of the internet. This is definitive proof that within the creative process of Blackhat, Mann understood the inner workings of international cinema in the present day.
For some of the American actors, like Viola Davis, traveling such lengths to shoot the film was refreshing. The Oscar-nominated actress mentioned she had never traveled to such exotic countries for a shoot. But at the same time, for talent like Wei Tang, traveling felt like any other normal work day. About her travel schedule in January, Wei said ,
"before I came here, I was in London and before London I was in Singapore. After this, I will go to (South) Korea, and then Taipei and then to Beijing and then to Spain, all of that in one month."
During his press conference with cast, Mann drove home his vision that China should be seen not as an enemy, but as a partner. He emphasized the importance of making it all look real: the setting, the cast, and the relationship between the countries. Leehom Wang, when asked about the authenticity of the Chinese dressing of the Police and Army, after confirming it to be all real, even made a joke about his casting: "Most people were assuming - 'Oh you are a Chinese guy in a Michael Mann movie playing with Chris Hemsworth, so, like, are you the villain?'"
Though the America - China relationship is strong in terms of trade and economy, the same can also be said for the remarkable exchange of art, in this case as it applies to filmmaking. One under appreciated feat of Blackhat might be the breaking of barriers between Eastern and Western Cinema. Here, Mann follows the footsteps of a handful of recent releases over the years, my favorite of which I've broken down below!
Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, and where a class system emerges.
The Joon-Ho Bong debut in the English language brings Chris Evans and Kang-Ho Song together in leading roles, another collaboration between a Marvel Avenger and an Asian actor.
Man of Tai Chi
A young martial artist's unparalleled Tai Chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.
Keanu Reeves' debut as a director showcases the Chinese martial arts of Tai Chi and it stars the Chinese actor Tiger Hu Chen; it's reminiscent of classical martial arts cinema.
The Raid 2 - Berandal
Only a short time after the first Raid, Rama goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta and plans to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force.
The Raid 2 might not have anything too Hollywood in it, but it is a wildly entertaining film that will get an American remake, probably in 2015 or 2016. A trio of main characters, including Iko Uwais, Cecep Arif Rahman, and Yayan Ruhian are said to be joining the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. Yes, you read that correctly, Star Wars!
Those are just a few examples of how interconnected American and Asian cinema is nowadays. Bigger picture: Blackhat continues an exciting trend in worldwide cinema. If you aren't already, maybe it's time to start paying attention to Eastern Cinema.