* Minor Spoilers Ahead *
When a Chinese nuclear reactor has a partial meltdown, the Chinese military quickly traces it to a computer malware attack.
One officer, Chen Dawai (Leeholm Wang), even recognizes some of the original programming in the virus. He and his MIT roommate, Nick Hathaway, had written it in college and promptly forgot about it. Chen wants to invite Nick to China to help uncover the new hackers who “borrowed” their original code. The only problem is Nick is doing a 13-year prison sentence for hacking into banks and lifting nearly $50 million, making him a “Blackhat” hacker.
Still, he’s the only one who has a chance to figure out why the nuclear plant was targeted and what possible targets are next.
Chen works with the FBI in America to borrow Nick. Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) convinces the Department of Justice to free Nick, if he wears a ankle bracelet tracker and is escorted everywhere by a U.S. Marshal, Spencer Garrett (Gary Baker). Oh yeah, he can’t use a computer without permission and supervision.
Chen also hires his sister, a gifted computer network programmer, to help him. Chen and sister Lien Chen (Wei Tang) meet Nick, Carol and Spencer and promptly start working. They are making little progress when the stock market is hacked and the soy market is manipulated.
Following the money, they find two things: the money was sent to three people in Jakarta, and those people are just pawns for a super hacker with mysterious plans.
There is plenty of action in Blackhat, including a real game changer about 90 minutes in. Hemsworth acquits himself well as both a fighter and a hacker. Just ignore his Bostonesque accent that fades in and out.
Director Michael Mann does a good job of keeping us in the dark about the hacker’s big plans by throwing in a lot of gunplay, explosions and the use of tech. The hardest thing to watch is the “Tron”- like tour of the inner workings of computers.
Blackhat is not the blockbuster the trailers hype. It is a slick computer caper-heavy film with a nice wink at the end.