A day before general release, and the studio embargo for posting media reviews has been lifted, and with it the lid on opinion. It’s the big moment when we get a glimpse of how good this film is and how well it will do at the box office. As Mann fans, we are desperate for Blackhat to do well. So what is the verdict? I have gone through the reviews and I post all the major ones I have currently found below, under the unbiased subheadings of positive, average and negative. You will see it is evenly distributed, which should be a rush of relief.
I have not yet seen the film, and frustratingly won’t until it arrives in the UK on the 20th February – which is aptly my birthday (I may have already mentioned that!). The overall common consensus, reading from both sides of opinion is that Blackhat is a luscious piece of cinematography that has Mann’s esoteric aesthetic all over it, but is flawed in storytelling. Despite the music composer’s complaints, the score is designed, as ever, to emotionally pitch with the scenes, as we have always experienced and loved in a Mann movie and it is said to work. The visual look is what scored most highly in all the positive reviews and for many, it covers a multitude of sins in terms of what most reviewers say is poor in plot, script, acting and believability – all of which are seen as central elements to Mann’s previous films. These shortcomings in Blackhat are used as whips on Mann’s back by the negative reviewers. But for those who saw a deeper value in the film, they felt the pure aesthetic and experience elevated it above the storytelling, which led to some having conflicted feelings about the overall success of the film. The complexity of the visual theatre of the story is to some even overwhelming, containing within itself another layer of ‘story’ and ‘communication’ to the audience that perhaps is impossible to process in just one viewing.
For the negative reviewers, the aesthetic is pure video in look, and takes away the layer of magic that cinema can impart, when giving us that filmic texture. For these reviewers, the film is a January flop, not recognising perhaps the nuances other viewers with a different aesthetic have. Negative reviewers feel it is a Mann rehash of old ideas, whilst more positive reviewers appreciate the complexity of the visual language.
Hemsworth isn’t warmly received as hacker Hathaway, and the consensus is that he is miscast. Nevertheless, the positive reviewers admire Hemsworth’s commitment to the process and for some, does give a subtle and strong performance. Read the reviews below, and come to your own conclusions.
I can’t comment on the film until I have seen it. The above is a summary of opinions I have read in the latest reviews. I suspect, on balance, it is not a film whose sum of parts fully add up to legendary Mann proportions. But it sounds as though the aesthetic elements will have us salivating in the cinemas, and on further processing, we may find that it is actually groundbreaking in its visual story telling. Let’s see.
The Village Voice