Blackhat (2015)

US / 133 minutes / color / Legendary, Forward Pass, Universal Dir: Michael Mann Pr: Thomas Tull, Michael Mann, Jon Jashni Scr: Morgan Davis Foehl Cine: Stuart Dryburgh Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen, Wang Leehom, Christian Borle, Jason Butler Harner, Spencer Garrett, Andy On, Danny Burstein, Archie Kao, Abhi Sinha, Manny Montana, Liang Shi, Kan Mok, Kirt Kishita.

Michael Mann’s movies can sometimes suffer from impenetrable plotting, and indeed the plot of Blackhat is supremely complex, with a large cast of integral characters, yet I found it refreshingly lucid. It’s a technothriller in something approaching the William Gibson mode, although—as arguably befits a screen presentation—with the accent more on the thrill than (except perhaps visually) the techno. I gather this emphasis was even more exaggerated in the trailers, which portrayed Blackhat as essentially a hackneyed action movie; that marketing misstep has been blamed for the offering’s dire performance at the box office. For me, although I have some deep reservations about Blackhat (see below), I also found it compulsively watchable, as much because of its conceptual cleverness as anything else, shootemups and chases included.

Tang Wei as Lien

A hacker uses a type of code known as a remote access tool (RAT) to sabotage a nuclear power station in Hong Kong. Soon afterward, in the US, a variant of that same code is used to manipulate soy prices such that the hacker makes a hefty profit. The Chinese authorities, investigating the power-plant incident, put the matter in the hands of Captain Chen Dawai (Wang), a military cyberneticist who studied at MIT.

Dawai recognizes the basis of the code. He and his MIT roomie and best friend, Nick Hathaway (Hemsworth), devised it for fun many years ago. The hacker—the “blackhat”—must have found it online somewhere and downloaded it before adapting it for their own nefarious use.

Wang Leehom as Dawai

Dawai and Nick are thus the two ideally qualified individuals to spearhead the hunt for the malefactor. Trouble is, Nick’s serving a lengthy sentence for cybercrime . . .

You can guess the next bit. Dawai negotiates with the FBI’s Continue reading

Prisoners (2013)

US / 153 minutes / color / Alcon, 8:38, Madhouse, Entertainment, Georgia Film Music & Digital Entertainment Office, Warner Bros. Dir: Denis Villeneuve Pr: Broderick Johnson, Kira Davis, Andrew A. Kosove, Adam Kolbrenner Scr: Aaron Guzikowski Cine: Roger A. Deakins Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoë Soul, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla-Drew Simmons, Wayne Duvall, Len Cariou, David Dastmalchian, Victoria Staley.

A very long, very carefully paced movie, beautifully photographed (his work here brought Deakins one of his several Academy Award nominations), intelligently scripted and with an excellent ensemble performance including a firecracker turn from Gyllenhaal, Prisoners was Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s first English-language movie; it was followed promptly by his second, Enemy (2013), which also starred Gyllenhaal and which I’ve talked about elsewhere on this site.

Keller Dover (Jackman), his wife Grace (Bello) and their kids go for Thanksgiving dinner to the home of their neighbors and best friends, Franklin (Howard) and Nancy Birch (Davis) and their kids. During the afternoon, the two families’ youngest kids, Anna Dover (Gerasimovich) and Joy Birch (Simmons), disobey orders and wander out unsupervised. Within hours a search for them is on.

Hugh Jackman as Keller.

In charge of the case is Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), a relative newcomer to the area with a celebrated 100% clearup rate. Almost immediately there’s a suspect in custody: Continue reading