Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.
At the outset, let me say that I rarely attempt to review thrillers. Part of the reason is that there aren’t many thrillers that I end up appreciating, and generally, I only write about films that I like. I do admit, though, that the genre is a guilty pleasure and that I occasionally scratch the itch.
Which brings me to Blackhat. I left the theatre realizing that I’d been ‘glued’, as they say, to the screen for the full two hours and thirteen minutes of its duration. Yes, I was thoroughly entranced, but I wasn’t at all sure why. So, I went back two more times to find out, and each time, I realized I liked it more and more.
Blackhat is a movie about cyber-crime, the folks who commit it, and the folks who attempt to apprehend those who commit it. Director and co-scriptwriter Michael
Mann engaged in meticulous research to create the covert world of ‘blackhats’, as the inhabitants of that arcane world are called. He spent a lot of time discussing the nuts and bolts, or rather, the ones and zeros, of cyber-crime with actual players. And the word is that the ‘actual players’ were much impressed with Mann’s scholarship.
The movie opens with a view of Earth from space. The camera draws closer and closer. A sprawling metropolis comes into focus. And then a few short shots of a curly haired fellow typing something into his computer. The camera shoots him from above.
We do not see his face. These shots are interspersed with close up shots of bits and bits of information, bits that are flowing through the innards of what we very soon realize is the computer command center of a nuclear reactor. And then… Pow! – the cooling facility of the reactor blows up. The reactor is located in Hong Kong.
A few short scenes later, a young People’s Liberation Army officer is conversing with his superiors. In the course of their conversation we learn that a simultaneous, albeit unsuccessful attack was launched against a nuke plant in the USA. The young officer is the resident expert on cyber-crime. He informs the top dogs that there is only one man who can help him ferret out the bad guys. And it turns out that this one and only guy is currently serving a long prison term in the USA – for, you guessed it – cyber-crime.
Perhaps the plot is beginning to sound ridiculous. Certainly, that’s the opinion of the preponderance of critics. But, as Director Mann discovered in his research, a not inconsiderable number of hackers who have been prosecuted for their illicit activity actually end up working in ‘cyber-defense’.
What I’ve revealed about Blackhat happens in the very early stages of the movie.
I’ll just add that the PLA officer gets his way. The American hacker is released from
prison and promised a full pardon if he can successfully flush out the monster who
attacked the two nuke plants. There are the obligatory shoot-outs, a bit of romance, and some ‘ah-hah’ moments. For me, they all worked. If I had the time, I’d happily see Blackhat at least a few more times.
Among its many features, I much appreciated the racially mixed cast. And also that the film ineluctably demonstrates that every country in the world is virtually connected in what the hackers like to call a potentially ‘kinetic’ way.
I think Michael Mann’s Blackhat is terrific. Forget the critics. Find out for yourself.