Home4k Blu-rayBlackhat Director's Cut & 4k Blu-ray Theatrical Version Reviewed

Blackhat Director’s Cut & 4k Blu-ray Theatrical Version Reviewed

Blackhat (2015) 4k Blu-ray Arrow Video

Michael Mann‘s “Blackhat” has finally been released on 4K Blu-ray from Arrow Video after several delays. The pushbacks were supposedly because of multiple requests to have the rarely seen Directors Cut of the movie included with the physical media release. But while the DC is finally available for viewing on disc, it is only presented in 1080p (2k) Blu-ray, not 2160p (4k). However, both the US and International versions of the film are presented in 4K with HDR10 High Dynamic Range using the BT.2020 spec that pushes color depth up to 10 bits. 

This review isn’t meant to be a side-by-side comparison of each of the versions of Blackhat, but rather an overview of how the film is sequenced differently in the first act. Secondly, this is a review of the 4k quality of the US and International versions, not the DC on Blu-ray. You can already guess that the 4k just looks sharper and renders deeper color than the Blu-ray. Will we ever get a 4K version of the Director’s Cut? Not likely, at least anytime soon. But at least we can view the movie as Michael Mann originally intended it to be.

Theatrical vs. Director’s Cut

First off, we should clear up that the US and International versions (released in Germany and the UK) are pretty much the same except the International cut removes a short, 32.4-second clip about a suspect in the malware insertion. We’ll leave it at that because anything else could be speculation of why it was removed. The Director’s Cut, on the other hand, has not been widely released until now. It had been seen only once in public, during a retrospective of Mann’s work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016.

How do the versions of Blackhat differ? The theatrical versions start with a beautiful shot of the moon, then computer wires and binary code, all enhanced with CGI (how else would you express the moving of digital data through networks?). And, we see the back of a hacker inserting a USB drive. Then, there is an explosion at a power plant in China, and TV footage of the aftermath. 

In the Director’s Cut, the movie opens with shots of an empty trading floor and stock tickers, focusing on one commodity named Soy Futures. We also see the unidentified hacker and the data network visual effects seen in the theatrical versions (although maybe sequenced differently). And, there is a scene at the port of Rotterdam, Netherlands where a cargo ship (carrying soy) is denied access to dock. This is one method the hackers used to raise the value of soy in China, but cut from the Act One of the theatrical cuts. 

You can see how Universal wanted a bigger bang at the beginning of the film, and therefore asked for a recut before releasing in theaters. A rising stock price (hacked or not) isn’t exactly the catalyst for a blockbuster (although for many viewers it might be). So, the explosion of the powerplant in China, which is perhaps the biggest event in the movie, was moved to the beginning of the film in the theatrical versions. 

There are also lines of dialogue removed or shortened, and some shots are completely cut like Hathaway doing pushups in prison. Likewise, the conversation before the first time Hathaway and Chen Lien (Tang Wei) have a romantic moment is cut – deemed unnecessary for the progression of the story. But those changes don’t seem to affect the movie’s flow of narrative as the power plant’s explosion does. It’s also worth mentioning that during the meeting of Chinese officials, there is no discussion of the power plant explosion, rather, the officials jump into discussing the stock surge and hacker’s methods. 

Yet another difference is how soon the film’s star, Chris Hemsworth, is introduced in the movie. You can guess studio executives wanted Hemsworth in the movie right away, and so he first appears as the character Nicholas Hathaway at 6 minutes in the theatrical versions. In the Director’s Cut, Hathaway isn’t mentioned until 14 minutes and the prison scene doesn’t start until 15 minutes into the film. 

So which version of Blackhat is the best? After comparing the versions the Directors Cut may be the best. Why? Because the film just seems to flow better. In the Director’s Cut, the explosion takes place in the middle to end of Act Two at 1 hour and 4 minutes. This allows more opposing forces and buildup of conflict in the second act, adding to the urgency of the mission of the heroes.

Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei in Blackhat © Universal
Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei in Blackhat ©Universal

Video

Blackhat is presented in 4k (2160p) at 2.39:1 widesreen aspect ratio. The 4K video is certainly worth mentioning as an improvement over the previous HD presentation, and the HDR adds depth and sharpness where it wasn’t evident before. The color grading is signature Mann, with sickly green analogous colors dominating the feel of the movie. The source video comes from a variety of cameras and formats including ARRIRAW(2.8K), Canon H.264(1080p/24), and Redcode RAW(4K) to name a few listed in the movie’s technical specs. 

According to the included booklet from Arrow:

  • Blackhat is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 with 5.1 sound.
  • For the 1080p Blu-ray release, the high definition digital masters of both the US and International versions of the film were sourced from NBC Universal.
  • For the 4K Ultra HD release, the 2K DPX master data files of both versions were sourced from NBC Universal and are presented in 4K resolution with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The 4K remastering and color grading was completed by David Mackenzie at Fidelity in Motion.

Blackhat in 4k averaged around 50Mbps, although there are much higher bitrates during some scenes. A peak was noticed at 133.6Mbps. Overall, the upscaled video looks decent, although a native 4k presentation would have been preferred. The dark palette and somewhat flat image is better viewed in very low lighting.  

Audio

Blackhat on 4k Blu-ray is formatted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, the same as Universal’s Blu-ray edition released the same year of the film. The movie is underscored by dark music compositions by Harry Gregson-Williams, Atticus Ross, and Leopold Ross, which help in transitioning the scenes. 

There are some immersive qualities, especially in the gun shootouts and other action scenes. Some ambient sounds are evident, although only if the level is turned up. There are some interesting surround sound effects happening during the opening CGI clips of the data network, and music notes drop into the side and rear channels. The car explosion at 1 hour 28 minutes is definitely a hair-raiser. And, the following shootout with terrorists distributes gunshots in discrete channels in a style not unlike other Mann films. 

blackhat 4k blu-ray photo inside 2 2000px
blackhat 4k blu-ray photo inside

Bonus Features

The Blackhat 4k Blu-ray Disc contains extra bonus material under the Special Features option in the menu. You can choose to hear audio commentary during the feature films from Bryan Reesman and Max Evry. “Firewall” is a new video interview with cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh and “Zero Day Threat” is a new interview with production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, both recorded exclusively for Arrow Films in 2022. Also included are legacy bonus features “The Cyber Threat,” “On Location Around the World,” and “Creating Reality.” There are no special features on the Directors Cut. 

Summary

This is a quality physical media year release from Arrow Video that includes two discs, three presentations of the film, and a book insert with notes about the film transfer. Blackhat is certainly not Mann’s finest work (especially when compared to “Heat” and “The Insider”), but it does offer a unique interpretation of the potential risk networks face when connected to the Internet. And, the movie has some good action scenes and gun battles, for which the director is known for. Viola Davis might be reason enough to watch this film, with an ice-cold yet vulnerable performance as FBI Special Agent Carol Barrett who has more depth than any of the other characters. The video quality is OK, certainly better viewed in a dark environment where you can take in the subtleties captured by cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh. The audio is well-mixed and the dialogue clean, although the music composition seems to disappear at points where silence just makes the movie drag. The CGI footage that interprets the dispersion of data throughout networks gives Blackhat a distinct look from Mann’s other films.  

Scores

Movie
3/5

Video
3/5

Audio
4/5

Bonus Features
3/5

Blackhat (2015) 4k Blu-ray Arrow Video
HD Report
HD Reporthttps://hd-report.com
HD Report provides news, commentary, and information about home entertainment media and technology. HD Report has been a Google News partner since 2006, and can also be found on Twitter, Apple News, and Facebook.

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