With remarkable vision, filmmaker Michael Mann has forged a decades-long career delivering compelling tales of unique characters on the frontier edge of worlds undergoing change. From “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Heat” to “The Insider” and “Ali” to “Collateral,” “Miami Vice” and “Public Enemies,” he has remained one of the industry’s most compelling storytellers, and his level of artistry has created an indelible influence on other filmmakers and audiences.
This year, Mann turned back to the big screen with Legendary Pictures with “Blackhat,” a propulsive thriller—a story of one man, a blackhat hacker, trying to outrun his past and take control of his future—within the brave new world of cyber interconnectedness of all things. As director and producer, Mann brings his signature artistry to weave a compelling film set across an array of exotic Asian locations in the U.S. and Asia, captured with his stunning signature visuals.
“Blackhat” follows convicted hacker Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), furloughed from federal prison, and his American and Chinese partners as they try to identify and hunt down a world-class and dangerous cybercrime network from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Perak, Malaysia and Jakarta. But as Hathaway gets closer to his target, his target becomes aware of Hathaway and the more personal the stakes become.
Mann and “Blackhat” writer Morgan Davis Foehl began crafting a compelling story that was drawn from the complex and fascinating facts of an activity largely hidden from view. Discussing his draw to the project, Mann reflects: “For a subject to arrest me, I have to feel there’s some mystery, some frontier.” He found that in the cyberrevolution. “It’s one of the few pieces of technology that has had a massive social, cultural and political effect on our lives…probably the biggest single effect since the printing press. It is changing the way we are.”
The director admits that when he becomes intrigued by a subject, he tries to find out as much about it as he can: “That usually starts with a series of meetings with experts. I met people in Washington, both in private cybersecurity as well as government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The story we heard was always the same: The American public has no idea how porous our technological industries are and how much innovation has been appropriated and stolen. Chris Hemsworth and I also met with Mike Rogers, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee and was very active and very early in warning about the threat of cyberintrusions—particularly into defense industries, technology and appropriation of intellectual property, mainly from China.”
What he discovered from his exhaustive research was shocking. “The revelation was that you think you’re fine living in this secure bubble of your private life and there are various kinds of controls on access and egress,” Mann says. “That’s not true at all. We live in an invisible exoskeleton of data and interconnectedness. Everything we do, everything we touch, is part of that web. It’s as if we are living in a house and all the doors and windows are open and it’s a very dangerous neighborhood, but we don’t know it.”
Now showing in cinemas, “Blackhat” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.