2015-01-16

Blackhat –

by Yo Snyder

Some say a good hacker movie has been missing from
mainstream media for a long time.  With
all the movie remakes and re-used ideas in film today, can you think of the
last great hacker movie?  War Games (1983)?  Sneakers
(1992)?  Hackers (1995)?  So the
question on everyone’s mind might be, is Blackhat
the great hacker movie that has eluded Hollywood for so many years?  Unfortunately the answer is not really, which
can be considered both good and bad. 
Good because there is still a sorely untapped source of movie material
out there, bad because perhaps a hacker movie can’t be made great.  I mean, how long can the audience stare at
some computer geek pounding away on a keyboard before we get bored?  Is that all a hacker movie can portray?  I for one think that a great hacker movie, as
elusive as the movie may be, is out there. 
It’s lurking in some young film writers mind, just waiting for Hollywood
recognize its potential. The script will take the latest material from real life
events and put it on film in such a way that the audience can relate, be drawn
in, and cheer – perhaps even for a blackhat to win.  So what is a blackhat you may ask?  It’s a computer hacker that is breaking laws
for malicious intent or personal gain. 
So with that thought, lets dive into the movie.

Blackhat is
directed by Michael Mann, director of great films such as Heat and Collateral.  Clearly known for his cops and robbers type
films, I was curious how he would direct a new genre of movie.  We clearly have plenty of “Michael Mann”
moments in the film where the slow melodic music plays as a backdrop to main
characters making their rounds, doing their thing, and living their life.  Unfortunately, the approach Mr. Mann’s takes
with most movies did not work for me here. 
The slow drama moments seemed very disingenuous with a total lack of
emotion from actors.  I remember
thinking, “I wonder if our male lead has any feelings for the female lead”?  Next thing you know, they are kissing in a
scene that is totally devoid of any passion what so ever.  So without the strong relationship bonds that
previous Mann movies have, Blackhat
was unable to capitalize on any sort of dramatic moments to pull the audience
in.

The first half of the movie is spent trying to determine how
hackers have infiltrated key facilities abroad. 
We get a few attempts at hacking scenes with lights flashing through
computer hardware, but really, how do you make a malware attack look cool?  And that’s one of the main questions that
eludes Blackhat, how do we portray
hacking in a cool manner? So the first half of the movie is slow paced and a
bit boring to be blunt.  Perhaps
recognizing this, or simply attempting to draw of Michael Mann’s strong suit,
the 2nd half turns our computer genius hero into a bad guy fighting
machine.  That’s right, our computer nerd
is also a jail house trained killer!  The
fight scenes require so much suspension of all reality, not just to imagine a
computer geek fighting, but also the completely illogical manner in which the
fights occur, that the second half of the movie becomes somewhat
laughable.  Where the movie aims to draw
the audience member into the tense moments, we instead find ourselves
frustrated at scenes such as a gunman running through a parade with a gun held
high yet none of the parade members seem to notice and continue to go about
their normal march or where pistols are as effective as rifles at 100 yard
shots.

At the conclusion of the movie I found myself split in my
reaction.  I did not go into this movie
with high hopes and I walked out entertained but also disappointed at the
failure to make a great hacking movie.  I
can’t say I pictured Chris Hemsworth as the hacking genius before the movie,
and after even less so.  They surrounded
him with some good hacker types such as Wang Leehom who feel constrained in his
role.  He perhaps would have been a
better lead considering the subject matter.

3 out of 7 – I would
not be disappointed catching this as a Friday night Netflix pick, but it’s not
something I would go out of my way to see in the theaters.  Rated R for some bad language and violence
but it’s a tame R – I would have thought it was a PG13 flick had I not double
checked.