In Films by James Hay - Cinema Editor

A big dollop of form over function, Blackhat exhibits the usual lovely digital visuals we’ve come to expect from Michael Mann of late and some decent suspense and tension for what is essentially a computer-hacker thriller with the odd bit of action.

Despite glimpses of some nice technical innovations, different format cameras being used in different scenarios, there is sadly nothing groundbreaking or original enough to offset the lethargic and dated storytelling.

And it is that word that defines Blackhat: dated. Whether because Mann is a director from another era and his films simply feel outmoded in 2015 or whether this one is just a dud, it doesn’t really matter – the result is the same. When you’ve got films, over the past year alone, such as Boyhood and Birdman pushing the envelope of what’s possible with cinema then a beige political thriller with trademark touches from the 90s just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Mann can do a shout-out and final showdown better than anyone, just watch Heat if you need reminding, but is that alone enough to keep afloat a heavily sagging script and dead-weight cast? The answer for Blackhat is, sadly, no. In no small part because of the sub-standard acting from both leads Chris Hemsworth and Wei Tang; their chemistry is purely physical, cemented by a painfully unnecessary and formulaic sex scene, with the dramatic and emotional scenes being left distinctly hollow as a result.

Even the gimmicky special effects employed to give some energy and dynamism to the inherently dull technological aspects of the plot (he’s a hacker, they need him to use his hacker skills to hack some computer hackery stuff) is tired and unimpressive. Oh, and it’s about four hours long, which doesn’t help.

All in all, a flat flop; Hemsworth showing his limited range in struggling to step up to the level required to open a serious film. Probably stick to the hammer guy, Chris, you’re good at that. Mann definitely still has something to offer but maybe we’ll need to wait for his second coming, a la Mr Scorcese.

Blackhat is a film that could have been made ten years ago but probably shouldn’t have been made at all. Never mind, eh.