Director: Michael Mann (2015)
Twenty years after Angelina Jolie starred in Hackers, Michael Mann discovers the interweb in this dull, dated and disappointing cyber-terrorist thriller.
With its nineties action licks, wide-eyed wonder at the web, redundant explanatory visuals, evocation of 911 and stockmarket manipulation plot, it misses the zeitgeist by at least a dozen years.
When a computer virus causes a malfunction at a Chinese nuclear power plant, it results in eight fatalities and threatens a reactor meltdown.
Military computer expert Captain Chen (Leehom Wang) is ordered to find the ‘blackhat’ cyber-terrorist responsible. With the US also at risk of attack he travels to the US to link up with the FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis).
Despite not trusting each other, they start putting a team together with Chen persuading his sister, network expert Lien (Tang Wei) to help.
Chen recognises the code virus as one he co-wrote at university with Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) – but he’s currently in jail for assault.
Hemsworth has an impressive physique, leading man looks, charm and talent – but it’s a stretch for him to convince as a mega-intelligent programmer.
The FBI agree to commute his sentence if he can solve the case and Hathaway is released in golden sunlight to the sound of soaring strings. Hallelujah.
But until the terrorist is caught he has to wear an electronic ankle tag and be accompanied everywhere by Jessup, a US Marshall (Holt McCallany).
It’s an unusual investigation with glamorous nerds confronting suspects while FBI agents blackmail banker’s into giving up private information.
With the nuclear incident is contained and the hacker not making demands, there’s a tremendous lack of tension. This downtime allows time for Lien and Hathaway to become intimately acquainted.
There’s an awful lot of tapping at keyboards and staring at screens. Failing to illustrate the web in any inventive way the camera whizzes into computer hardware to follow miles of wires and acres of microchips before popping up on the other side of the world. Ho hum.
Anyway the script wanders off to China to retrieve some data from inside the highly radioactive but now stable nuclear facility. It’s a sequence devoid of drama but does give the team a chance to mess about in yellow radiation suits.
There’s helicopters, speedboats, private jets and shootouts in the street with automatic weapons. When the team takes casualties the mission turns personal.
The bizarre finale takes place in a huge open air parade in Jakarta. White guys wave guns about and happy-slap random members of the local populace – but not one person reacts in anger until shots are fired.
Ultimately the blackhat terrorist is revealed as a shabby bearded bloke called ‘The Boss’ (Yorick van Wageningen). His life would have been a lot simpler if he’d just joined Lloyd’s or gone to work with George Soros.