Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Granted, this shot in Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” flagrantly quotes Hawkeye embracing Cora in Mann’s “Last of the Mohicans”, with that I cannot argue, and yet for all their similarities, circumstantial and visual, there are acute differences. When Hawkeye and Cora fell into embrace it was because Fort William Henry was under siege, the whole world on fire, a new continent rife with war, and where else was there to go but into one another’s arms? When this shot happens in “Blackhat”, the brother of Lien (Tang Wei) has just been killed, and so this intense embrace she shares with Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is a reaction, but the glorious context goes further than simply What Just Happened.
It goes further because Lien and Hathaway are hackers on the run, fugitives from opposing sides of the law, each faction closing in on them not just by foot but by the digital footprint, and those digital footprints loom largest of all. “Blackhat” opens with a shot from space that plunges downward into the complex web of network connections spanning the globe, emulating the way in which everything across our vast expanse of Earth is connected, and because everything is connected, it is that easy to turn the connections against us and, say, blow up a nuclear reactor, which is exactly what happens in this kicking-off sequence. Chaos threatens, of course, but from a villain who remains mostly out of sight, lurking at a keyboard.
Human beings threaten to fall by the wayside in this film. Indeed, some have argued they do, so reed-thin are the characters. But Mann isn’t as much interested in who they are as in their innate human physicality. This is what makes the love affair between Lien and Hathaway so scintillatingly appropriate – he’s just been sprung from prison to help combat the hacker and being celibate, well, you can imagine. That’s not to sound lewd, but to suggest their physical longing is more than enough in this case, because Mann contrasts that physical closeness with the much less tangible cyberspace. In other words, them being human is enough in this context, and so Mann repeatedly frames them and lights them so that their physical being is enough, and then some, which brings me back to the shot, one pointedly free from hacking and microchips and keyboards clacking because it knows that in a world where excessive inter-connectedness threatens at every turn to tear us down and leave us alone our only hope is tangibly clinging to the one you’re with.