Michael Mann doesn't make standard frantic-pace thrillers (see Heat and Public Enemies); he prefers to work at a more controlled stride, so while this hacking adventure-mystery is intriguing it also feels a bit plodding. Yes, the film erupts now and then into a viscerally exhilarating action sequence, including a couple of astonishing shootouts, but over the course of two and a quarter hours it barely builds up a head of steam. And it's further frustrating that the intriguing characters never quite emerge as real people.
It opens with a cyberattack on a Chinese nuclear power plant, after which Captain Chen (Wang Leehom) heads to America to consult with FBI Agent Barrett (Viola Davis), urging her to get the one man who can solve this case: Chen's former MIT roommate Nick (Chris Hemsworth), now serving 13 years in prison for hacking. On supervised release, Nick heads to Hong Kong with Chen and Barrett, plus a minder (Holt McCallany) and Chen's computer-whiz sister Lien (Tang Wei), who immediately catches Nick's eye. As they secretly begin falling for each other, Nick indulges in a lot of illicit computer work to trace the attack to ruthless thug Kassar (Ritchie Coster) and his shadowy boss Sadak (Yorick van Wageningen). But they're based in Jakarta, and the FBI has no jurisdiction there.
Aside from some cheesy inside-the-computer animation, Mann makes the film look sleek and stylish, dropping clues into each scene to fill in the bigger picture about what is happening. And when an action set-piece breaks out, the film becomes urgent and gritty, with handheld camerawork and a breathless sense of peril that suggests that no one is safe. On the other hand, the script asks us to believe that Hemsworth's imprisoned computer geek can suddenly become a full-on action man, with astonishing gun-handling skills, the muscly precision of a Hollywood stunt man and the ability to out-strategise both spies and super-villains in a massive climactic showdown in a crowded city square.
Continue reading: Blackhat Review