Afternoon class was canceled, so what better way to take advantage of the free time than to take a shot by shot look at the awesome first trailer for Michael Mann's hotly anticipated Blackhat. In the words of Matt Zoller Seitz, happy to return to Mann's world, where one can stare at, and contemplate, beauty and horror.
A global thriller, a global first shot
Now we get text completing the idea of the image
Stunning on its own terms, mountains background, city, lights, technology foreground
Logically, next shot's going to be of a computer system room. Nice low angle, camera's in awe of the technology. Bright colors make for nice contrast of the white text with black backdrop
Again, from general to specific. Now we're dealing with the increasingly prevalent idea of cyber security and the fear that anyone can access our deepest information.
More text, but the backdrop is now a cable entering a computer port. Vulnerability creates anxiety as web access paves the way for personal access
Now we get a cool little CGI tracking shot through the inside of the computer. Works as a nice transition, and also suggests the eerie fact that all this metal and wires is producing the very human and personal fears stressed in the text above
Cut to another shot of the computer system, this time with some spooky bright lights
And one more for good measure, though this looks more like an image from Prometheus than anything else
This is actually pretty cool. Moving from the inside of the computer to the outside, we get the pixels of...
What looks like a stock market screen
A random cut back inside the computer (though, entirely sure that's what that is)
Then to a wider shot of the same screen
And...people! Looks like a chaotic scene, in what will likely be a fairly chaotic movie
We were here earlier in the trailer, but now there's humans involved. Technology, humans, and stress. This image seems to represent some of the basic outlines for the film
We get our first good look at a human face, and he sure as hell doesn't look too happy
People anxiously watching the screens, absorbed in technology
More stress. This series of shots is trying to establish a mood. It's setting the table for what's to come. It's the prologue to the trailer. It's been 38 seconds and we haven't really gotten much Mann per se, but there's still nearly two minutes of images left, so no worries
Now cut to the real start of the trailer with the Universal logo, ironically in black and white for a hyper-modern techno thriller.
Followed by Legendary's log, a company that has only recently joined with Universal
Skyscrapers, presumably in Hong Kong. For Mann neophytes, the guy loves shooting skylines, but usually at night, when things are often more dramatic.
Now we get the trailer's first lines of dialogue, just some basic exposition to set it in motion: Some hacker is hitting our financial markets, says John Ortiz, who has previously been in Mann's Miami Vice and Public Enemies. These guys are presumably in one of the buildings from the previous image
That's Leehom Dong he's talking to, and it looks Viola Davis is in the background
Now we get the inevitable, a must in a trailer for a Mann film
Two quick shots of a screen and some code, to set up the world Mann's dealing with
Now some more exposition, this time from Davis: Four major banks, and that's just what we know about
Probably the best three to mention. Public Enemies is too period (though I feel like it's going to have more in common thematically with Blackhat than you might think), Miami Vice too average for anyone who's not a Mann aficionado
If we want clues to the hackers identity, we need a man named Hathaway. If it's not obvious who that might be, you need not wait long:
And now get our first look at Chris Hemsworth, the latest male to become a macho star for Mann, though here he looks more like a thug. What we know about this guy? Ortiz asks. He's a convicted hacker serving fifteen years, Chen answers. Now we know why he doesn't look too flattering
Chen: MIT. He's also really good looking and works out a lot. Brawn and brains, never a bad combo
Chen: Genius coder. Also looks like he's prone to putting up a fight
Now we get Hathaway's proposition: I want you to commute my sentence...
And the apprehension... Now we see Hathaway, presumably out of prison, looking sharp, really bad ass, and a little like Colin Farrell from Miami Vice-only without the mustache.
Of the guy you're after... Now we see Hathaway's female companion, played by Chinese actress Tang Wei (on my count there are now two cast members from Ang Lee's Lust, Caution in the film). It's unclear yet what the extent of the their relationship will be, but knowing Mann it will likely involve some romance.
Cut back to when Hathaway's technically still a prisoner as he conclude his wishes: those are the terms.
Now the trailer really gets fun. We get this great overhead shot of a helicopter flying above the ocean
Hathaway going down a hallway lit in Mann's favorite color as we hear his voiceover: is he political? (referring to the cyber terrorist).You see this image and you know it's a Mann film (note, this is shot by veteran DP Stuart Dryburgh, who previously worked with Mann on the pilot of Luck, and also with Mann's daughter for the mediocre Texas Killing Fields)
Reverse angle-trying to figure out what that is in the background. Someone at a computer?
And just in case you still weren't convinced, a shot of a speedboat at night
Terrorist attack-any declaration? Hathaway asks
Hathaway and his team are chasing somebody, and the writing on the white building tells us we're in Hong Kong.
Over the next few shots we're going to hear Viola Davis saying The guy we're working with dropped the big hammer and not think twice about it. Note the green lighting-we've seen it already in the trailer and we're going to see it quite a bit more
Ambiguous shot of a man moving backward with a gun
Followed by this crisp image-complete with water ripples-of what's probably the good guys sneaking around
I'm still not entirely clear on what this is, but it looks like that shot from inside the computer from earlier in the trailer
Not quite sure who this is either, but it could very well be the first image of the villain who will be popping up at the end of the trailer. Either way, it's a cool shot.
Chris Hemsworth looking at a computer because he's a natural when it comes to staring at a screen with a really serious expression on his face-oh yeah, and because Hathaway's a techno-genius...
Unknown speaker: He's on the move again
Looks like another CGI shot inside a computer, as Tang Wei says Chicago...
Now China... This is going to be a full on international thriller
Hemsworth and Wei looking pretty cool as they track down the bad guys
And...another shot of Hemsworth looking serious at a screen
Hathaway: This is only the beginning
And I honestly don't know what this is, but there is green to be seen
Hathaway scrutinizing something, hard to tell what, but it looks important
Cut to new angle, doesn't clarify anything, but there's more green light
Green computer codes
Hathaway: He's still writing
Cue to cut to a guy typing
Hathaway says something here, but it's hard to hear what. Sounds like war four. More importantly, this is a pretty neat little cut to beneath the keyboard. The shadow are the fingers hitting keys
This shot's enigmatic. Starts out as a classic Mann nighttime composition before huge flashes of light and electricity starts falling from the ceiling
Now we get more color as a huge flame is about to burst from that liquid
Visual clarification. Looks like some sort of plant is in pretty bad shape
Insert text, cue start of Antony and the Johnson's moody version of the already moody Knockin on Heaven's Door. Not a bad song choice for this, and it suggests that the film is striving to be more than just another globe-trotting action movie
We get a slow-mo shot from behind of the team checking out that place where we just saw the explosion
Then reverse to the front. Yellow and red here, man this movie looks like it's going to have some crazy awesome lighting
We see what they see. Doctors helping those hurt from the explosion?
Once Hathaway and company arrive, they must get these safety suits as they investigate the site of the explosion
Hathaway voice over: the real hit is still to come. The slowness of the song captures the devastation caused by this mysterious terrorist, and this line really sets up what will likely be a driving force in the movie: the suspense and dread of waiting for a terrorist to strike
Closer shot of Hathaway
The trailer's already pretty well established this, but nevertheless it doesn't hurt to remind us
Viola Davis: You get discovered...
Cont. You're dead meat
Not only does Hathaway have to find this guy, but he has to keep himself from getting found, too
Hathaway following Wei through the night streets
Apparently they're walking into a restaurant, and the chef apparently likes cooking shirtless
Hathaway's in the restaurant, and the guy he's after seems to be that figure just above his right shoulder. More green light
Cut to the reverse angle, as we get a couple quick shots of Hathaway kicking some ass
The guy in white's about to take a huge hit to the face
While this other guy's about to get smashed by a table. Can't wait to see this sequence in full
The crew prepares to enter a Cessna
And then another glorious nighttime shot of the aircraft leaving the city
Here Hemsworth and Wei look a little more emotionally involved
And I hope to god Hemsworth's hair isn't doing that all the time in this movie
Now comes a bit of surprise, as we actually get a look at the perpetrator as he says, while talking on the phone: This isn't about money
Now we get a good look at the bottom half of his face. Mann's protagonists have often been villainous, I'll be curious to see who this character actually turns out to be. We may be dealing this time around with a more traditional hero-villain structure
Is this Chicago? I know some of the movie's set there.
Slow tracking shot of officials as perpetrator continues: This isn't about politics. Hmmm, then what is it about? The bar for this guy is now set pretty high.
Chen talking to...
Some Chinese commander we haven't seen yet
Can't tell who this guy is, either, but his face has taken a beating and he's covered in tattoos-could mean he's a bad guy
Ultra low angle shot of Wei, really digging this green vibe Mann's working with
And, just for good measure, another shot of Hemsworth looking at a screen before he...
Knocks everything off his desk in extreme frustration
Bright lights in Hong Kong, and more voice over from our villain: I can target....
More running. Expect a lot of running in this movie
Not sure where this is supposed to be, but it looks nice
Now we're in the final portion of the trailer. This seems to be some sort of parade or celebration, but it's hard to tell
Though this creepy green mask maybe suggests something more ominous. Villain continues: Anything...
Hathaway's at the scene, and he looks all work no play
This might be our man right here
Hathaway's not just searching, he's ready to kill
Classic Mann image: machoism defined, shallow depth of field, just look at this guy. Screen cuts to black and villain finishes his pronouncement: anywhere. So no one's safe, and if he's creating trouble for its own sake, then this could end up being one scary movie
So this parade, or protest, or weird cult ceremony, or whatever it is, apparently is turning into a full on gun battle. Expect great things from Mann here. It's hard to tell though. This could be a different scene all together
But we know there will be some action in that scene from this image, in which Hathaway fires away. The torches almost look like city lights. Mann's sticking with what he knows best but finding new ways to go about doing it
Wei in a mad dash
Here's a closer look at that shooter from a few shots ago. Guessing he's not one of the good guys
Because he's shooting at these guys, who look like cops
Not sure how this shot snuck in here, but Davis is looking pretty worried. More green.
Now for the last two shots of the trailer: Hathaway finally embracing Wei, but it's actually just for protection
We'll see what ends up happening with these two
Knockin on Heaven's Door had stopped for the last several seconds of the trailer, but it returns quietly as the title card appears, again suggesting a film that's not just bang bang, but that's got a lot on its mind
And that's that. This is a really strong trailer, fully emblematic of Mann both in terms of visual style and storytelling. Mark your calendars. The film arrives in mid January, and while that's normally a dumping ground for studios, I don't see much reason to panic. Universal probably didn't have room for it in late 2014, and saw a delay of a few weeks as a nice way to keep the box office going after the busy Holiday season. And maybe they also figured that Mann fans would be really pissed if it was delayed longer just for a more prestigious release date.