Film of the Week: Blackhat

Perhaps a cyberpunk film in a league of its own, Blackhat balances the thrills of an abstract digital world with its more tangible, human, and architectural counterpart. Unlike Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995) or the Wachowski siblings’ The Matrix (1999), there’s no philosophizing here. Instead, Mann highlights the relationship between the digital and the real, and the power the former holds over the latter. It’s a story reminiscent of Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy. The story: A hacker causes the coolant pumps at a nuclear plant in Hong Kong to explode and soon afterwards, hacks the Mercantile Trade Exchange, absconding with a fortune. The Chinese government and FBI team-up, creating a special unit to investigate the case. Chen Lien (Tang Wei), Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), Carol Barrett (Viola Davis), and Marshal Jessup (Holt McCallany). Each character bears their own agenda for the case whether personal or political, bound to their national duty or their friends and loved ones. As the film progresses, note the journey to escape from the digital world. The opening scene has the camera bear down tunnels of wires and digital infrastructure as if it were a rollercoaster. Traversing the world alongside information packets, the camera enters and exits various computers and machinery before re-emerging onto the nuclear plant, bearing witness to the destruction. Fittingly, the final shot of the film takes place in an airport where the characters are being watched by a security cam. They walk forward until their faces blur into nothingness.

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