‘Blackhat’ trailer reminds us why the Sony hack is terrifying

For nearly three-weeks, Sony Pictures has been fortifying security and watching confidential information spill into the cultural conversation after a hacker group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” broke into the company”s computer systems with chaotic intent. It”s been a weird event to watch from the outside. The leak spawned fun tidbits (the idea that the “Jump Street” franchise may crossover with “Men in Black” sent the Internet into a tizzy) and sour revelations, personal correspondences scrutinized under a microscope. For many, the attack feels harmless – it”s just Hollywood after all! But pulling back to a macro view, the idea that the tap of a few buttons could cripple a major corporation is downright terrifying. What if the info didn”t feel so superfluous? What if criminally obtained knowledge flipped the state of the world forever? Welcome to the scenario revolving around Michael Mann”s new movie “Blackhat.” There”s no way to ingest the film”s new trailer without considering the Sony hack. That”s probably a good thing.

Arriving from the non-hacked Universal Pictures, the “Blackhat” trailer opens with a quote from former C.I.A. director Leon Panetta: “The next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber-attack.” You don”t say! What unravels is terrifyingly believable and energized with Mann”s signature style. In “Blackhat,” Chris Hemsworth plays an expert hacker – OK, maybe it”s not that believable – serving 15 years in prison. He”s recruited by the U.S. government when it”s clear the country”s new adversary is pulling strings from behind a desktop. Somehow, the faceless villain orchestrates violent acts of terrorism, prompting costar Viola Davis to admit that the guy they”re all hunting would take out a city without thinking twice. “Don”t evoke 9/11 on me,” says her coworker. That is a great frickin” line.

“Blackhat” marks Mann”s first film in six years (he previously helmed “Public Enemies” and went on to direct David Milch”s “Luck” pilot). Though he hasn”t been in the awards conversation too often, earning his sole Best Director nomination for 1999″s “The Insider” (he also earned a Best Picture nom for producing Martin Scorsese”s “The Aviator”), Mann is an idiosyncratic voice in action-thriller filmmaking. His late-career turn towards the harsh static of digital cinematography works perfectly here. If anything it”s going to give Hemsworth much-needed grit, it”s going to be HD cameras exposing in low light. 

If “Blackhat”s” January release date strikes fear on your heart, remain optimistic: This is 2015, the year of the juggernaut blockbusters. January has been more prosperous than ever. Mann”s latest may not slay the awards, but its chilly release window doesn”t look to speak to its quality.

“Blackhat” arrives Jan. 16, 2015. Watch the trailer below.