Our movie experience was off to a rough start. The theater was hot, the Junior Mints box was too big for the cup holders, and few things are stranger than sitting through a 50 Shades of Grey trailer with your coworkers. But we trudged on because there are only a few times in your life where you can convince your employer to pay you to see a movie. This was our chance, and we were going to see Blackhat.
We had already raffled off tickets to IT pros who’d signed up for our Vulnerability Center last week; after less-than-stellar reviews, we fell on the sword next to them.
If you’re not familiar with the film’s premise, it focuses on super-handsome super-hacker Nick Hathaway, played by Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame (visual approximation above). Hathaway is furloughed from prison to help take down a cybercrime network and becomes the reluctant lynchpin of the only five people the Chinese and US can spare to tackle this imminent threat. Hathaway, from what we can decipher through his tough-guy mumbling and … Bost-lyn? accent, is a cybercriminal with a heart of gold who hates the bad guys almost as much as he hates buttoning his shirts. Joining him on his quest is his college roommate and the roommate’s sister (who’s main contribution is enabling Hathaway’s hatred of shirt buttons).
While the film starts tamely enough and doesn’t stray too far from the world of cyber threats we live in today, it devolves into high-speed chases, shoot outs around industrial shipping containers, prison weapons befitting an episode of the Wire, and tense stalking through every action movie’s favorite crowd scene—ethnic street festivals.
I left the theater feeling confused (and a little sleepy). The technical aspects of the film were authentic, but the whole thing felt surface-level. It’s not that Blackhat gets hacking wrong; it’s that at the height of the film, it stops hacking (and starts stabbing). I guess it’s because … hacking’s boring. To appeal to a wide audience, you have to keep the tech-talk to a minimum and throw in a Marvel superhero.
So is Blackhat a flop? An underwhelming win for accurate portrayals of our new cyber-reality? A two-plus hour sunglasses advertisement? I sit down with a fellow movie-goer to discuss.