Blackhat ★★★★

Breaking away from your programming. Mann takes a crisp look into our unmapped digital future here in what loosely appears to be his first ever work of science fiction (hard to imagine a single other movie in his filmography that looks as starkly dystopian as this does). What’s most surprising about the world of BLACKHAT though, is how gradually accurate it rings as time goes by: when the digital age of technocracy is rapidly outpacing modern global politics, we’re expectedly left more and more with a reality where sincere human interaction is as necessary as it’s ever been. It’s no wonder that one of the most tangibly real moments of the film is Hathaway’s first introduction to Lien via hand grab—in a clever stroke of genuine formal purpose, the runway he originally steps out onto’s grey, out of focus feel all snaps right into place the second he gets a feel for the tactile world of humanity (his relationship with Lien eventually culminating in an intense and spontaneous moment of passionate explosion, further emphasizing the importance of touch). An excessive focus on professionalism at the cost of suppressing deep-seated emotion is an idea Mann has covered in the past, but it’s deeply accentuated here by the isolation of virtual connectivity, as it guarantees that our characters can no longer hold back—ultimately having to disobey their more professional coding in favor of something primal. Key sequence being the final shootout wherein our main characters are literally moving in resistance to a programmed flow of culture and tradition (loosely reminiscent of the gridded-out blocks of code the film opens with): swimming against the stream. If anything at all, it’s worth noting that Mann’s unconventional approach to digital video here is noticeably sleek as ever, yet always seemingly verging on the fraudulent look of artifice—creating the perfect environment for a world as outwardly ingrained in the intangible as the one BLACKHAT occupies. “No one's ever gotten this close before."

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