Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Trailer for Blackhat suggests it might be a Michael Mann film

The new film from the great director of suave action promises aficionados all they desire

Mon, Sep 29, 2014, 00:03


Michael Mann is, like Terrence Malick, one of those American directors whom it is very easy to parody. You know the sort of thing. Throbbing electronic music. Men standing in modernist architecture. Spectacular aerial shots. Busy handheld shots. (That’s Mann, not Malick.) This is not to suggest that either director is anything less than a genius. Few other film-makers have had quite such an influence on contemporary cinema as has Mann. This week’s enjoyably vulgar The Equalizer ends with an unmistakable tribute to the chap all sensible action directors regard as the modern American master. At the end of that smash-bang vigilante picture we hear a blast of Moby’s take on Joy Division’s New Dawn Fades — a track most associated with a bracing automotive sequence in Mann’s Heat. Call it a respectful bow.

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Mann has, however, had a peculiar time of it since The Insider was released a decade and a half ago. Ali was predictably well-made, but, given how much we knew about its subject, the film just felt unnecessary. Miami Vice had wonderful moments, but seemed a bit like a half-assed Heat retread. Public Enemy was a genuinely fascinating oddity that fought with its own consciously uninviting digital photography throughout.

All of which brings us to Blackhat. The picture sees Mann tackling the subject of computer hacking. Chris Hemsworth plays a criminal who is extracted from prison to help the US and Chinese authorities thwart a digital villain (who, I’m betting, is played by a senior so-far uncredited UK actor). The magnificent Viola Davis — an actor I’d happily listen to reading excerpts from log tables — plays some sort of senior official. Never mind all that. What matters is that the film, on this evidence, features throbbing music, cobalt-blue cinematography, men standing in modernist buildings, speedboats rushing towards skyscrapers, people talking nervously on phones, men advancing with sub-machine guns, chemical outbreaks and lots of people being really, really worried. It looks like essence of Michael Mann. Actually, it looks a little like a parody of a Michael Mann film. This is where we came in. I can’t wait for February.