If I was writing a school report from this movie, I would probably write “Could do better…”. It is not a bad movie, but given who is involved, I was expecting more. Directed by Michael Mann (Public Enemies, 2009), I came away with the feeling the effort that should have been put in to the movie was not used. Despite the name this is simply a police procedural, thriller type movie with relatively little in the way of “techno-plot” indeed given some of the errors and continuity breaks I think those involved perhaps did not have the technical know-how to close out the movie from a plot perspective.
The movie opens with an excellent graphics sequence (possibly a highlight) showing code being sent to a computer which turns off a fan at a Chinese nuclear power station and causes a breach (they said meltdown at one stage, but if it was, there would not have been people running around the site in civilian clothes just days afterwards). Shortly after the commodities markets in New York are hacked and feedstuffs a spiked netting a $75m profit for our bad guy. While working on the nuclear a Captain, Chen Dawai, (Leehom Wang, My Lucky Star, 2013) in the PLA (a rising Princeling judging by his description) he recognises some old code he is responsible for, he along with his old room mate in college, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, Thor 2011), who just so happens to be doing a prison sentence for hacking some banks and costing them about $50m, depending on which part of the movie we refer to, he is either doing 13 or 15 years in prison for this.
Long story short, Hathaway is released on furlough after Captain Chen links with the FBI and his Network engineer sister ( Wei Tang, The Golden Era, 2014). Despite initial reservations the FBI lead investigator, Carol Barrett ( Viola Davis, The Help, 2011) sees their worth and backs them as they end up following clues around the Far-East.
Eventually Hathaway puts the clues together, not so much from his cyber skills as from his ability just to stand back and look at the complete picture.
If you ant to look at this movie with any sense of seriousness, you will be disappointed, if however if you like a movie with people running all over the place, shooting everybody and anybody while seemingly never getting in trouble, then you will love this.
There are a number of huger plot holes – if you are trying how to disable a pump PLC system , you don’t need to find one of the pumps at a nuclear power plant, which will raise headlines. Speaking of PLCs (Programmable Logic (not Launch) Controllers are a fairly basic piece of kit that even I was programming when in college a generation ago, so no big challenge there. There are also a number of continuity errors, in Tshirts changing colour, stains on suits suddenly disappearing etc.
Hathaway who is supposedly a SW genius does some funny stuff like use a browser/domain name to indicate an IP address (dodgy) and I’m not going to ask when he got in to an illegal server farm, how he managed to find the drive he needed and hack it.
As a chase-‘em, shoot ‘em up movie it works, but anybody with more than an ounce of engineering or coding skills is going to be entertained much. The closing scenes in Jakarta also strain the imagination, it is noteworthy how many people ignored gun & knife toting westerners as they possessed along the road with their torches. I also have a problem with the “little things”. After arriving in Malaysia (illegally) they seemed to have no shortage of ready cash and indeed in the closing scenes Hathaway actually takes €5000 out of his, supposedly secret Swiss bank account; two things in the few hours he was in Malaysia, how did he mange to get his bank card (there nothing to suggest he had this or other private belongings prior to the last arrival), oh and why use Euro when going to Switzerland, rather than Swiss Francs.
I started off giving this a *** rating but the more I think about it, and how unconvincing the movie was from both a characterisation and technology perspectives I have to revise down to **. This might be a little harsh, but like I said at the beginning “could do better”. A final comment is the effect of mixing the digital and 35mm camera work, hmm – small doses please, it was certainly over used and grated a few times.