Blackhat has numerous scenes that look cool. Plus it has a dreamy cool synthesizer soundtrack. But the plot is ridiculous. What might have been a good nugget of an initial concept is destroyed by the way this story is presented.
When hackers cause a meltdown at a nuclear power plant in China, followed by a hack into a commodities market in the U.S., swift action is called for. Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) is selected by the Chinese to find the source of the hack. He drafts his sister and fellow computer geek Chen Lein (Wei Tang) to help. He also reaches out U.S. authorities and to a former M.I.T. classmate who is currently incarcerated in the states.
Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is behind bars for hacking. When he’s released to help with this mission, he is chastised for having added credits to accounts of fellow prisoners at the lockup’s commissary. Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) is the F.B.I. operative who joins the team.
Blackhat has a romantic element as Hathaway and sister Chen quickly hook up but their coupling seems more out of convenience than true attraction. As Hathaway and crew work to track the hack, they travel to Asia. The foreign settings in Indonesia and Malaysia provide nice backdrops for gun battles and chase scenes.
Director Michael Mann brings compelling visuals to the screen. His Tron-ish representation of data traveling over networks looks good. Setting a showdown between good guys and bad guys within a large folk dance ceremony makes the confrontation interesting. Many shots have a grainy video quality that adds a true verité feel to the film.
Overall, though, the film’s structure is flimsy. Actions and motivations are not easy to figure out. Others (such as the hackers’ real goals) are explained away with a simple line of questionable dialogue. With some films, such as certain James Bond movies, that’s okay. But with Blackhat, it’s not. This is a timely, ripped-from-the-headlines problem that’s real. A movie about hacking should be topically meaningful. But Blackhat disappoints.