Tag Archives: paul greengrass

Jason Bourne – Review

2 Aug

Recently I did a review on all 3 of the original Bourne movies, and even threw in The Bourne Legacy because I apparently like cinematic torture. Yeah, that one was pretty awful. The original three films with Matt Damon as the titular character are, on the other hand, some of the greatest action films ever made, with The Bourne Ultimatum ranking up there with the best of the best. When the trailer was revealed for Jason Bourne, with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass returning, I became as giddy as a school girl. There was a lot of hype around this movie, and it doesn’t quite seem to be fully living up to it. I may be biased in my opinion, but I honestly thought this was a pretty great thrill ride.

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All Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has ever wanted is to be left alone. After the events of the original trilogy, Bourne is laying low and making a life as a fighter in underground fighting rings. For 10 years, he has been living under the radar until Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finds him and warns him of a new program the government has started called Operation Iron Hand and also reveals she has new information concerning Bourne’s father’s connection with Treadstone. The idea of learning more about why Bourne became part of the clandestine organization sends him back into the world he’s been trying to get away from. Hot on his tail are CIA bigwigs Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), and an assassin known only as the Asset (Vincent Cassel). This worldwide chase leads Bourne on a trail of clues that uncover more conspiracies and lies that ultimately ended with his mind becoming what it is today, and he wants revenge not only for himself, but for his father.

I should start by something that may come as a shock to hear, especially coming from someone like me who absolutely loves the Bourne trilogy. Jason Bourne didn’t really have to be made. They wrapped the story up pretty well in The Bourne Ultimatum, and it could have realistically been left at that. We live in a world, however, where sequels have become the norm and since this movie does exist, I whole heartedly welcome it. That being said, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessors. Jason knows who he is now, and by this point it kind of just felt like they were searching for anything that could possibly bring him back into the world of spies and espionage. For this one, we have conspiracies surrounding a social media network that the government wants to tap into and exploit, while also the plot about Jason’s father’s involvement in Treadstone and why they were surveilling him. This doesn’t make for the most interesting storyline, but there is plenty packed into the movie to make up for its missteps in terms of creating a highly captivating story.

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The best thing about Jason Bourne is the action. I honestly can’t stress enough how awesome every action scene was. The first one that really hit me was a motorcycle chase through a riot in Greece. Not only was this a unique environment for a chase to happen, but it was shot so beautifully. This is a really nice looking movie, and that credit goes to how well Paul Greengrass can capture a movie like this, in an almost documentary style way. There’s also plenty of great fist fights that have become a staple in this series. Part of the fun of these movies is seeing the new ways that Bourne can disarm and take down an enemy. These scenes are relentless. The highlight of this movie, however, is a car chase that takes place through the busy streets of Las Vegas. I kid you not when I say that this car chase is one of the coolest parts of this entire series and is hands down the best car chase in any Bourne movie.

Something I’ve heard complaints about is the story involving a social media tycoon (played by Riz Ahmed) and his involvements with the CIA in a sort of Edward Snowden, NSA spying on people sort of thing. I didn’t have a problem with this one bit, and I even think it added a little something to the story. I really like how these movies always made me feel like stuff like what was in the movie was definitely happening, and part of that success was how the media was handled in the stories. This is a Bourne movie that takes place in a time where social media is a main source of news, and this is also a time where the government is taking advantage of platforms like this. Jason Bourne fits in very well with the time and uses this conspiracy and paranoia to help better the story.

Jason Bourne may not live up to some of the heights of its predecessors in some regards, but as a whole I think it stands up very well with the other movies in this series. The action is some of the best you’ll see all year, the performances are all pitch perfect, and it’s just awesome to see this character back doing what he does best. This is a quick paced thrill ride that has its share of flaws, but more than makes up for them which means I definitely recommend this film to any fans of the Bourne series.

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The Bourne Series – Review Part II

28 Jan

Let’s get back to the Bourne series. In the first review, I stated that The Bourne Identity has been one of my favorite action films since I can remember, and that The Bourne Supremacy is a flawed but worthy sequel. Now we have The Bourne Ultimatum and the most recent entry, The Bourne Legacy. This is going to be a very conflicting review because one of these movies is quite frankly one of the best action movies ever made, and the other is an unnecessary mess that made me feel like I wasn’t even watching a Bourne movie. I think you could guess which one I’m talking about. Nevertheless, let’s get this started.

The series continued in 2007 with The Bourne Ultimatum.

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Picking up right where The Bourne Supremacy left off, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is trying to covertly make his way out of Moscow. Six weeks after his escape, the CIA begins tailing journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) after he publishes articles about Bourne and is overheard on his phone talking about Operation Blackbriar. This forces Bourne to also track him to find who his source of all this information is. Now  back in the crosshairs of the CIA, specifically Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Straithairn) and the more sympathetic Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Bourne fights his way across the globe trying to find answers about his past and Operation Treadstone, which ultimately leads him back to New York City where the truth will all finally be revealed.

Way up high on the Mount Olympus of film, The Bourne Ultimatum acts as one of the main representatives of action. It’s everything you want in an action movie, but then also delivers an intelligent story and rich characters. I will say that the annoying Paul Greengrass shaky cam is still there, but the action is so wild that I could easily look past it. There are stunts that happen in this movie that goes to show you don’t need CGI for everything. One scene in particular shows a car going up a divider and spinning off of it into another car which causes both of them to roll out of control. Watching the special features on how they did that was absolutely incredible and makes this movie even more impressive.

The Bourne Ultimatum is easily the best film in the entire series. It reveals a lot about Bourne’s past, introduces new villains while reinforcing heroes we’ve come to love. There’s plenty of action and espionage to keep the most jaded and critical film goer at bay while also telling a really dark and intelligent story that mirrors the real world in some scary ways. My only real complaint is how Greengrass uses the camera in action sequences, but it really wasn’t as annoying as it was in The Bourne Supremacy. The bottom line is that this is one of the best action films ever to be made and deserves all of the praise and accolades that it receives.

After that masterpiece, there was a lot to live up to. What came next, however, was kind of weird. That was the 2012 film The Bourne Legacy.

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Taking place during and after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy introduces Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a genetically enhanced super soldier who’s part of a CIA black op called Operation Outcome. The consequences of Bourne’s actions mixed with inner departmental problems forces Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to completely shut down Operation Outcome, and by that he means whipe out all of the agents working around the globe. They don’t count on Cross surviving the attack and how desperate he would be to get his hands on the pills that keep him genetically superior. He soon finds and enlists the help of Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a biochemist who has analyzed and treated the agents of Operation Outcome. The two travel to the Philippines to inject Cross with a serum that will permanently keep him a step above the rest, but the CIA and local authorities seem to always be around every corner.

As I was watching The Bourne Legacy, I was really trying hard to get into it. Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz both give good performances, and Jeremy Renner makes Aaron Cross a very memorable and fully realized character. There were even a few scenes that were really cool, like a long take that has Cross scaling a house, going into a window, and shooting someone. That’s where it all ends. This movie does not feel like an addition to the Bourne series. There’s only a few scenes with characters from the trilogy and brief mentioning of things that Bourne is doing. Cross doesn’t even really qualify as a “legacy” because he’s part of Operation Outcome and not Treadstone. I don’t understand this movie in the least.

The Bourne Legacy is really missing out on a lot of key elements that make the other movies great. For one thing, the sense of completely grounded realism is gone for me with the introduction of these pills that make super soldiers. Another thing is that the action is less than stellar and even boring. Finally, there just isn’t enough of a connection to the other movies. It’s one thing that Jason Bourne isn’t even in this, but there was still a lot of room to make a spin off that really brings the movies together. Unfortunately we got this mess of a movie.

Well there you have it. The first three Bourne movies are spectacular action movies that helped redefine what the genre should be while also telling a story full of intriguing characters and memorable twists. Just don’t let The Bourne Legacy sour what those movies accomplished.

The Bourne Series – Review Part I

24 Jan

This is a review I’ve been wanting to do for a long time since these movies have a very special place in my film loving heart. The Bourne Identity was one of my most watched movies when I was growing up, and was actually one of the first “real” movies I ever sat down, watched, and appreciated. Instead of just reviewing that one, however, I want to take a look at the entire series. These are the kind of spy movies I really like because I feel like stuff like this could actually happen. I have a lot to say about this series so why not just get started?

The Bourne Identity kickstarted the series with its release in 2002.

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On a stormy night in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, a man (Matt Damon) is pulled out of the water by a group of fisherman. He has been shot three times, has a bank number lodged into his hip, and he can’t remember who he is and how he got there. Upon arriving in Zürich, the man discovers his name to be Jason Bourne, but he also finds that he being chased by all types of law enforcement. He enlists the help of a desperate woman, Marie (Franka Potente), who he offers to pay a grand sum of money in exchange for a ride. As they travel to Paris to find out more about Bourne’s identity, Treadstone, a CIA black operation led by Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper),  sends out all of their sleeper agents to track down Bourne and take him out before he does anymore damage to the CIA.

The Bourne Identity is one of the movies I watched a lot when I was younger, so it’s one of the movies that really got me into movies as much as I am today. I’ve seen and heard a lot of people say that this film breathed new life into the stale action genre of the early 2000s, and I can definitely see that, since a lot of action/thriller films that came after this one drew a lot of creative inspiration. This film is a perfect combination of espionage and action, with a villainous section of the CIA going against a one man war machine that is Jason Bourne. This makes for many great action sequences, car chases, and games of cat and mouse that happen throughout Europe. It’s a spy movie of the highest degree.

This movie was really fun to re-watch after not having seen it for quite a few years. It really hasn’t lost it’s luster and still remains as thrilling as it’s always been. While people knew who Matt Damon was before this, this is the movie that put him to the status of being a Hollywood superstar. This is also the film that successfully kickstarted a whole franchise. If you can’t tell already, I love this movie.

In 2004, The Bourne Supremacy was released. While definitely superior in some regards to the first film, there are some major drawbacks that sour the movie more than they should have.

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For two year, Jason Bourne and Marie have been laying low and keeping their distance from Treadstone and the CIA. All they have built soon shatters when Bourne is framed for the murder of CIA agents who were intercepting documents with proof of who stole $20 million of CIA money. This forces Bourne to come out of hiding, clear his name, and get his revenge on whoever tainted his name and ruined the quiet life he made for himself. This time around, Bourne is forced to go up against the CIA Deputy Directors Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Ward Abbot (Brian Cox), while also facing off against Russian Secret Service agent Kirill (Karl Urban) in a war that spreads over multiple countries and cities around the world.

The Bourne Supremacy is a much different specimen that The Bourne Identity. It’s almost as if two different people made these movies. Wait, that’s because they did. Doug Liman was responsible for the very cinematic first film, while Paul Greengrass took the series into a whole other direction with his almost faux documentary style film making. Greengrass would later go on to use this style in films like United 93 and Captain Philips, and they work really well in those movies. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the best choice for this film. The scenes of dialogue are great because it really brings a sense of realism to the story, especially with the handheld look. The fights suffer completely, however, and that’s a shame since the fights are such a big part in these movies. The action often becomes so incomprehensible, I had to just stop looking at it. Major points are deducted from The Bourne Supremacy because of that.

What The Bourne Supremacy does really well is tell a more intriguing story than its predecessor. The first film sort of just introduced the character and his situation, but this film goes deep into the rabbit hole that is Treadstone and shows just how corrupt it is. What’s fun about this is because it’s all very easy to believe something like this happening, and that makes all of the thrills completely worth it. It injects the series with something that can be a real life event. That being said, while I’m not a huge fan of how this movie is made, I can’e deny that it tells a great story, and that’s the most important thing to me.

The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy are a step above average spy thrillers and are part of the reason why I love movies as much as I do. I still have a few more movies to write about, so keep an eye out for the next part where I talk about The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy.

Captain Phillips – Review

27 Feb

In the film Gravity, the suspense and feelings of terror come from the thought of not only being isolated in space, but also dealing with disaster while trapped in that world of quiet isolation. Captain Phillips is much like Gravity in that sense. The film deals with isolation on the open seas, and the disaster is a bunch of Somali pirates taking over the ship with hostages. The isolation and human drama is where this movie shines the most, unfortunately in the middle of Act II, Captain Phillips turns into a formulaic thriller film that is only saved with an intense and titillating final half hour.

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Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is a family man who now has the job of being captain of MV Maersk Alabama. After being informed of Somali pirate attacks that have been occurring in that area, Phillips takes the necessary precautions to make sure his ship is safe. Unfortunately, his precautions are not enough and a band of pirates, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), get on the boat and hold the crew hostage. As the events progress, the pirates get on a life boat with Phillips as a hostage, with the Navy making close chase. As the rest of the night progresses, and Phillips keeps trying to negotiate for his life, the Navy make their own preparations to get Phillips out of there alive.

Captain Phillips is a Hot Pocket. What does that mean? Let me elaborate. Did you ever cook a Hot Pocket, but you just didn’t heat it up enough? It makes for a pretty nasty treat. Both ends are hot and delicious, but that large, meaty middle part is cold and disgusting. That, in essence, is Captain Phillips. I was so into the beginning of this movie. The way Phillips is shown with his wife and his crew is a perfect contrast to the Somalians, especially with the focus on Muse. It sets up something that I wasn’t expecting. Screenwriter Billy Ray and director Paul Greengrass choose to show both sides of the equation, which is very interesting and makes the whole story even more interesting.

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Then Act II starts, and everything seems to be going well. Not with the characters, of course, but just how the movie feels. Greengrass’ style works great with the story and Hanks and Abdi are performing very well. I was on the edge of my seat only to be pushed back and made drowsy by the middle of this act. Compared to the tour de force sequences of the pirates getting on the barge and the whole feeling of being trapped on there with the characters was great. Then Phillips is put in the life boat with the pirates, and the Navy gets involved, and it all starts feeling like a typical thriller film. I rewatched the second act the next day, thinking I may have missed something, but I didn’t. It’s a really slow and boring sequence that really drags the film down from what it could have been.

Act III finally comes along, and all is forgiven. The last half hour of this movie is what really kills me and what makes me really want to like this movie more than I did. The suspense is back full force, to the point where I was almost thrown out of my seat. This is also where Tom Hanks goes from a good performance to one of the best of his career. It is arguably the best onscreen moment he has ever had in his entire career. If it wasn’t for this amazing ending, I would have completely disregarded the movie altogether, so it’s getting a lucky pass.

Captain Phillips is a perfect example of a movie that I wanted to like a lot more than I did. The second act drags the movie way, way down farther than I ever wanted it to go. Luckily the beginning and ending are both great, but that doesn’t excuse the movie as a whole. Tom Hanks gives one of the best performances of his career, and Barkhad Abdi gives an amazing debut performance. Greengrass was really the obvious choice as director, but I can’t help but be baffled by how uneven the pacing of the movie is. It’s hard to get by how awkward it is, and that’s what really is the most disappointing thing about Captain Phillips.

Since this is the last movie I had to see of all the Best Picture nominations, here’s my list of favorites, from the best picture to my least favorite.

  1. Gravity
  2. Dallas Buyers Club
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street
  4. Her
  5. Philomena
  6. 12 Years a Slave
  7. Captain Phillips
  8. American Hustle
  9. Nebraska

 

Agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think.