I like to write reviews for movies that I like, and those that I don’t. Blackhat belongs to the latter category.
Blackhat is supposedly a movie about cyber-crimes and info-security. I used to work in the Info-security industry, having created both software that crack data as well as software that protect data. So I am quite intrigued when this movie came out and I made the mistake of dashing into the cinema without reading any reviews or trailers.
Chris Hemsworth, best known for his role as Thor in the Marvel films, plays Nick Hathaway who is an extremely talented hacker who has gone astray. He finds his way out of a 15 year prison sentence when parts of a computer code he once wrote during his youth appears in a malware that triggered a terrorist attack in a power plant in China. Together with his ex-roommate cum high-ranking China Officer friend Chen (played by HK star Wang Leehom), Chen’s network engineer sister Lien (Tang Wei), and FBI agent Carol Berrett (Viola Davis), the group set out to find the villian hacker behind these cyber attacks.
Now, I shall go straight to what I don’t like about the movie [Spoilers Alert]:
1. At the start of the movie, the director Michael Mann uses CGI animation to illustrate electrical signals traversing through network cables, to motherboards, to routers, and eventually to the villian hacker’s computer and then the hacker hit on the “enter” key to initiate the cyber attack. The animation feels so cliche that I almost burst into laughter.
2. After analyzing the codes behind the power plant’s cyber attack, Wong Leehom goes to find his sister who is working as a network engineer and asks her to join his team, claiming that he needs a network engineer who he can trust. But throughout the movie, I did not see any scenario that requires the expertise of a network engineer. The main role of his sister in the team seems to be the love interest of Chris Hemsworth rather than being a network expert.
3. The love relationship between Lien and Chris feels so forced. They just met for a few hours, hardly talked, and all of a sudden they started to kiss and have sex and fell madly in love with each other. Ridiculous.
4. At the finale showdown, the hacker Nick single-handedly took down three armed mercenaries plus the villian hacker. Those are supposed to be highly skilled mercenaries that eliminated a special task force and killed two FBI agents. Does US prisons teach their prisoners hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship?
5. For a movie that focus on cyber crimes and info-security, I expects more battle of wits between the good hacker and the cyber terrorist. But all I saw was a couple of simple UNIX commands, throwing a few tech jargons here and there, etc.
6. The hacker Nick successfully hacked into NSA by sending an email to a high-ranking NSA officer asking him to change password, while disguising a keylogger as a change-password guide. Seriously?? Even a normal company would have warned their staffs about opening attachments, let alone a highly-security agency like NSA.
7. Two FBI agents and one high-ranking chinese official were killed in Hong Kong but the US and China governments are doing nothing about it?
8. The videography was shaky and out of focus at times.
9. The plot was simple and predictable. There wasn’t any character developments, even to the lead actors and actress. There wasn’t any chemistry between the main characters, and seriously I don’t really care if they are being killed off.
10. The villian looked like a butcher rather than a hacker. They should at least show him doing more hacking activities than pressing an Enter key.
11. I don’t understand why the hacker needs to go to the frontline of shootouts when you have dozens of special task force and policemen.
12. Likewise, I don’t understand why they need to risk the life of the hacker to go into the site of a nuclear meltdown to retrieve a harddrive. Anyone with simple PC knowledge can do the job. Yet they feel alright to send the hacker who they deemed so valuable that they have to release him from prison to stop the cyber terrorist.
Basically, if you are expecting Blackhat to be an intelligent movie with hackers pitting their skills and wits against one another, you would be disappointed. Its a shame that the script is so bad that it wasted an interesting topic.
Perhaps, the entire movie is meant to be a Trojan horse that disguise an average action show into an intelligent cyber-crime movie.