Blackhat (2015)

I put off watching this movie because I like computers, have visited the Blackhat and Def-Con conferences, and I find it kind of difficult to suspend my disbelief when dealing with very straight-forward details about computers. There's no need to make things seem more complicated than they are, as computers are very complicated things, and networks can house all kinds of terrible and wonderful things without the need to fake it.

A great example is the setup for this movie where there is a gigantic nuclear failure as the result of a Stuxnet-like attack on China. Stuxnet is an actual virus that actually infected lots and lots of stuff on the internet, but it was designed to only hurt two Iranian machines. This virus may have been made by the NSA, the CIA, or some people suggest Israel. Either way, it's the way that some elegant computer code can impact a real-world facility just like I Am The Cavalry fears.

So, we start on firm ground, and the fact is that they could have made this movie and still been completely accurate. They used things like a Bluetooth dead-drop (which our hero found using a wifi scanner that simply would not have detected it) and RATs (Remote Access Tools that they concentrate on quite a bit rather than how the remote attacker got into the network in the first place). These are things that would have worked, but something happened in translation.

When Tang Wei (the love interest who is about as interesting as a beige wall) sits down and says that this guy has WRT hardware, I immediately put on the brakes. That's like saying this guy has Linux hardware or Windows hardware. The OS doesn't specify all that much about the hardware other than that the OS can run on it. WRT runs on so many different hunks of hardware that the statement is more confusing than it is clarifying. Oooo! Then an NSA guy is tricked into downloading a malicious PDF that installs a keylogger. I've done something like this in a classroom setting, and it's fun. However, it requires actually launching the PDF viewer to exploit a hold in Acrobat reader to work at all. Downloading it does you no good.

On to Chris Hemsworth. The Thor star puts on an American accent, and I suspect it's about as good as my Australian accent. His task is to say his lines (which are not overly technical), look menacing or grim, and look a bit confused at times. Aside from his lines, he succeeds at the others well enough, but he's not getting nominated for an Oscar or anything. Fact is, Viola Davis is the only real actor in the movie. She's supposed to also be grim, but she's not expected to know any of the technical stuff, so it seems to work.

This world that they create with spies and terrorists and hackers needs to have actual police involved, but they are portrayed as incompetent and overwhelmed with the sophisticated nature of the attacks. I'm used to movies and TV shows making the hero look smarted and more talented by making everyone around him or her look stupid (two criminals in the TV show Banshee made a head-on attack at an army base and won) but you have to draw the line somewhere. Really? No one is smart enough to track the bad guys down? What are my tax dollars paying for?

Look at me, glaring at this computer screen.
So, was there anything worse than the computer stuff? Yes. There was the point at which a guy out in the open hits several guys at roughly 75 yards with his 1911 .45 caliber handgun. These men that he shoots are wielding assault rifles of various makes and calibers that are set to short bursts, and they don't hit a damn thing. I don't care who you are, if your choice at 75 yards is a handgun with oversized iron sights or a rifle sighted in at (usually) 100 yards, you go with the rifle.

Action was not good
Editing was actually pretty bad
Camerawork was not great
Direction was adequate
Acting was meh

Bottom Line: a movie called Blackhat that will undoubtedly be panned by any real blackhat. Or whitehat. Or greyhat.



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