Michael Mann’s supremely visual new cyber-thriller could not be more topical – or frightening.



Revenge of the nerd: Chris Hemsworth


The world has never been a more vulnerable place. The more an infrastructure relies on a single unifying connection, the more susceptible it is to outside influence. And our planet has become such an infrastructure. Only this week it was revealed that cybercriminals had planted malware into the internal computer system of a Ukrainian bank, resulting in the theft of an estimated $900 million from more than a hundred banks and financial institutions in as many as thirty countries. However, as no one transaction exceeded more than $10m, the true scope of the embezzlement has yet to be verified, although the hackers syphoned off funds from banks across the world, from Russia and the United States to Europe and Japan.


Thus, the release of Michael Mann’s new cyber-thriller could not have been more opportune. It is a similarly international thing, having been shot in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Illinois and Los Angeles and features stars from Australia (Chris Hemsworth), China (Tang Wei) and the US (Viola Davis). Hemsworth plays Nick Hathaway, a cyber-criminal serving eleven years in prison, whose code for an old hacking job has been appropriated by a blackhat – a “bad” hacker – to cause a meltdown at a Chinese power plant and then to send soy futures through the roof on Chicago’s Mercantile Trade Exchange. And so Hathaway bargains his way out of jail in order to team up with the FBI to track down the rogue hacker... 


As with most Michael Mann films, Blackhat is a supremely visual and cinematic experience, utilising four different editors, two sound editors and three credited composers. Balancing thematic high stakes of global consequence with horrifyingly realistic street-level shoot-outs, the film is a sleek, breathless, gripping and pertinent ride which refuses to talk down to its audience. You really have to keep up. From the opening Fincher-esque race of a virus through the microscopic alleyways of a computer system to the giddy aerial shots of Hong Kong, the film asserts its visual calibre. Perhaps only Nick Hathaway himself beggars belief. With the six-pack of Jamie Dornan, the visage of Chris Pine, the fighting skills of Jason Statham and the mind of Stephen Hawking, he does rather stretch one’s notion of a computer nerd.


Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, Yorick van Wageningen, Wang Leehom, John Ortiz.

Dir Michael Mann, Pro Thomas Tull, Michael Mann and Jon Jashni, Screenplay Morgan Davis Foehl, Ph Stuart Dryburgh, Pro Des Guy Hendrix Dyas, Ed Joe Walker, Stephen E. Rivkin, Jeremiah O'Driscoll and Mako Kamitsuna, Music Harry Gregson-Williams, Atticus Ross and Leo Ross, Costumes Colleen Atwood.

Legendary Pictures/Forward Pass-Universal Pictures.
132 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 20 February 2015. Cert. 15.