I didn’t find anyone to sit with me, in order to discuss Michael Mann’s Blackhat. To bring this piece, I was thinking of certain names to sit with first at the round table, where endless opinions are always welcome. However, that was not the case, and that’s because on the surface Blackhat seems to some like a film just about hacking—action sequences, shootouts and lots of chases. What Blackhat instead represents is that it is passionately made to satisfy the need of the cinema screen, that frame, which some so lightly take for the sake of only getting entertained. There are those who only see the surface, and in a film like Michael Mann’s Blackhat, such attitude I find unjust. Utterly unfair, to not only to the filmmaker himself, his time and his respect for the true cinema, but unfair to the actual interpretation of the giant, squared curtain—cinema is what I’m referring to. I’d not written this piece to speak of what the film on the surface is about, which is hacking. But, to understand what’s taken right or wrong, if it is to some extent accurate, hacking I mean, I highly recommend the Wired’s article, Is Blackhat The Greatest Hacking Movie Ever? Hackers Think So.
The other reason I wrote this piece, since I didn’t find anyone to discuss the intrinsic meanings of every angle, every long to short pauses and silences, and from time to time the long stares performed flawlessly by the characters, is to hopefully open up the route of that, what they say, perhaps, the eternal discussion of all things Michael Mann here, or, all things cinema. Cinema is what, an actual thing? Perhaps, it is, and perhaps it is entirely not. Cinema, first and foremost, should exist, not just in the heart of the soul walking around, but in his or her mind. Then, from there, it becomes something when it is psychologically comprehended, and spiritually perceived and also appreciated.
Blackhat, it consists of eerie close-up shots, wide angle ones, too, and as well as scenes captured in gloomy atmospheres. One can sense, smell, and understand the atmosphere the characters are born in. The weather, the skylines, and of course, the element that Michael Mann has been always good at, in fact, a true master of it: capturing paranoia realistically from his own respective point of view.
I mentioned point of view here, for it is essential—whether one is a musician, poet, filmmaker or a writer, point of view, if not at all, at first, perceived rightly, nothing exists. The world which you’ll be thinking about, exists only as an object, yet soulless. So, therefore, point of view will always be crucial. And in order to grasp the film, it is that point of view of the filmmaker we must first understand. This truly takes practice. Am I the master of it? Absolutely not. There are times I see a film, I must immediately see it again in order to understand the shots, its nature and why is it written and directed. What I try to comprehend is the true fact behind the film, its meaning, the writer behind it and its director. Why does it exist? It must exist, in my opinion, for a purpose. If we, the man, are born in order to understand our purpose in life, a film very much like the soul of the man must carry its own unique purpose. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are films that are written and later directed just so be filmed, just to fill the emptiness of the cinema screen; it is created, invented to lack a point of view, however, to be fair here, even some of those films consist some kind of a point of view. And to investigate its purpose, you must investigate the writer and the director.
What makes Blackhat unique, so individual here, in this blockbuster-ism epoch, is Michael Mann. We have to understand, if students of cinema, we consider ourselves, the entire body of work of the artist first and foremost. When one finally knows and comes to understand this reality of, not just the point of view of the writer/filmmaker, but as well as his/her purpose as an artist, it is then when one can perceive the immanent realities of the film—its hidden purposes, metaphors. Films, as I’m sure some of you know, are also representations of symbols and signs. One of my favorite shots in Blackhat, which immediately got me teary-eyed, is when Viola Davis’ character Carol Barrett gets bullets penetrated through her. She falls on her back and stays there until she slowly closes her eyes. But, what’s so unique and touching about this particular point of view, or symbolism is that she keeps staring at the skyscraper, which is almost touching the dark clouds. It was during the second viewing of this film, I realized Michael Mann’s point. Barrett has lost her husband in the fall of the twin towers on 9/11. So, when she gets shot, and there is no way to survive, as she already knows it, she stays calm, absolutely relaxed, looking at the skyscraper, meaning, she’ll be joining her husband soon. In heaven.
Michael Mann is a realist filmmaker; we have to keep this fact in mind whenever we watch a Michael Mann film. For you, to understand something entirely different, Michael Mann won’t alter his body of work. He is an artist, and artists like him must be understood the way their nature has turned them into. He has a style, and so is Blackhat—that style, so alive, as if a recording of an actual event is taking place. Imagine the cinema screen, that squared frame, is not a screen anymore, but a window, through which you are seeing the actual event. The communication of the scenes in which characters are dealing with conflict, turns Blackhat into no longer a film, but an event, shot distinctively, poetic in nature, speaking back to its audience. Perhaps, it is essential to comprehend the work of the filmmaker via editing as well. Imagery, claustrophobic closeups, then the sudden transitioning to the wide angle shots of the inky skies; birds eye views; planes; boats; guns; bullet shells, each even if you notice as they fall, has its sounds captured. Blackhat is one of the definitions of bold filmmaking.