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'Blackhat' Offers Fictionalized Version Of Cyberterrorism

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hollywood is still buzzing about the recent computer attacks at Sony. And now we have a new motion picture, "Blackhat," that offers a fictionalized version of cyber terrorism. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Director Michael Mann's "Blackhat" lures us in with a promise of state-of-the-art villainy. But its satisfactions are surprisingly old-school. At its heart, this is a very traditional crime story with the good guys straining every sinew to prevent evildoers from doing their worst. That war starts with an attack on a Chinese nuclear power plant. Then, a major American trade exchange is hacked. The U.S. and China cooperate to find the villain, but the Chinese side wants to use an imprisoned computer wiz, played by Chris Hemsworth. He's a sullen guy who drives a hard bargain.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACKHAT")

CHRIS HEMSWORTH: (As Nicholas Hathaway) I want you to commute my sentence for identification and the apprehension of the guy you're after. Those are the terms.

TURAN: Sullen or not, the hacker receives a get-out-of-jail card to pursue the bad guys. He also banters with an attractive woman on the Chinese team, played by Tang Wei.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACKHAT")

TANG WEI: (As Lien Chen) Open your eyes.

HEMSWORTH: (As Nicholas Hathaway) What'd you say?

WEI: (As Lien Chen) You talk like you're still in prison. But you're not in prison. Get your thinking to where you are, not where you've been.

HEMSWORTH: (As Nicholas Hathaway) What do you know about where I've been?

WEI: (As Lien Chen) No - nothing.

HEMSWORTH: (As Nicholas Hathaway) No, nothing.

TURAN: Sections of "Blackhat's" plot are standard. And Hemsworth, best known for playing Thor, is not ideal as a hacker. But Michael Mann's skill as a director holds our attention as the team follows lines of electronic breadcrumbs in pursuit of the evil one. Technology may have changed. Cybercrime may be all the rage. But the narrative song remains the same in films like this. And it's a tune this director knows by heart.

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies, both for MORNING EDITION and for The Los Angeles Times. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.