Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Morgan Davis Foehl
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Tang Wei, Viola Davia, Holt McCallany, Andy On
Running time: 133mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Taking a deep dive into the shady world of cyber-crime, Michael Mann’s Blackhat was met with a rather cool reception on its initial release and while it doesn’t reach the heights of his earlier masterpieces such as Heat and The Insider (not to mention Thief and The Last of the Mohicans), the film is worth a revisit and revaluation with Arrow’s spiffy new Blu-Ray version.
A joint team of FBI and Chinese intelligence officers work together to track down an elusive hacker who has attacked a Chinese nuclear plant and the Chicago Mercantile Trade Exchange. The team is spearheaded by Hathaway (Hemsworth) a recently furloughed convict and super hacker in his own right. Using his unique skills, Hathaway chases the cyberterrorists across Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Jakarta in a bid to stop further attacks and prevent them from stealing hordes of illicit money.
Dark, complex and needing one to pay close attention to understand fully what is going on, Blackhat may at first seem impenetrable but once it finds its groove is a rewarding grown up thriller. Never in a rush, Mann’s film takes it’s time to unfold as the seemingly painstaking research into the world of hacking and cybercrime is rendered realistically on screen as the heroes desperately try to catch up to the nefarious cyberterrorists. What at first may seem potentially dull (lots of computer talk, sitting at screens typing indecipherable code) is given life thanks to the globetrotting aspect and a great supporting cast: Tang Wei and Leehom Wang really shine as the Chinese officers on the case. Mann keeps the tension sharp and the momentum moving as thecast propel from one location to the next. He also buoys proceedings with several scenes (of his trademark!) firepower charged action, as when the pursuers finally catch up to the criminals events erupt in well staged machine gun blazing action.
However, Mann makes the viewer work before he pays proceedings off with dynamic action and while it’s commendable that one has to think while also being entertained, Blackhat on occasion is just a bit too cold, aloof and oh so serious for its own good. Not that bouts of levity are needed, as they would be at odds with the subject matter, but Mann coats everything with such a dour tone that coupled with the needing to pay attention to all the cyber shenanigans means one could be (understandably) turned off by the film. Likewise, Hemsworth’s Hathaway is a character that is hard to warm to and despite the actor’s best efforts never fully convinces as a bad-ass action hero as well as a world class hacker (he conveniently appears to be great at everything in every situation!!). Tang Wei and Leehom Wang bring some warmth and personality to proceedings (along with a brief appearance from the great Andy On) and Viola Davis is likewise great but is given little to do other seem serious and pissed off.
Flaws aside, the film in general is a solid high-tech action thriller that portrays the dark and complex world of cybercrime with grim reality. Mann’s continuing fascination with digital film works well here and while this may turn off some (if you weren’t a fan of the way Mann’s Miami Vice and Public Enemies were shot then this film isn’t going to convert you!), the digital film aesthetic captures the clinical, cold, and scary world of cybercrime. Sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding, Blackhat shows Michael Mann still has creative juices to burn and is an uncompromising look at the world of cybercrime and those charged with bringing those who commit it to justice.
Arrow will release Blackhat on 4K UHD 27th November 2023.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
- 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentations in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of both the US and international versions of the film – film looks and sounds incredible.
• Original lossless 5.1 audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
• Firewall – brand new video interview with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh – fantastic interview with very likeable Dryburgh who is, rightly, proud of the film and shares his experiences making it and what it was like working with Michael Mann. He gives a shout out to his crew who worked on the film and talks about his career which has seen him shoot everything from The Piano to Bridget Jones’ Diary to The Great Wall. A knowledgeable and passionate filmmaker, Dryburgh makes for a great interviewee and could have listened to him talk for hours.
• Zero Day Threat – brand new video interview with production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas – another great and insightful look into the production of the film and how they filmed all over the world. Guy Hendrix Dyas is another great interviewee with a wealth of knowledge and experience and it’s fascinating to see what went into the making of the film.
• The Cyber Threat, On Location Around the World and Creating Reality – three archival behind-the-scenes featurettes on the making of the film – short but sweet featurettes from a previous release that dive deep into the production of the film with some great behind the scenes footage. Mann is also on hand to talk about the film and it’s cool to see him at work on the film as they were making it.
• Image gallery – nice selection of images from the film and its production.
• Limited Edition slipcover featuring newly commissioned artwork by Andrew Graves
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Andrew Graves
DISC TWO – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Michael Mann’s director’s cut of the film – not available at the time of review!
- Original lossless 5.1 audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing