I’m not afraid to say I’m a fan of Tom Cruise. If ever there was a genuine ‘movie star’ this guy is it and has been in some of the greatest movies ever made, as well as always being a watchable and likeable presence. This latest effort follows the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot who inexplicably becomes embroiled in drug running for notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar as well as working for the CIA. It’s an unbelievably crazy story that also just happens to be based on real events.
Doug ‘the bourne identity’ Liman’s movie certainly follows a similarly erratic, caper approach to it’s story telling as seen in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and even seems to echo TV hit Breaking Bad, what with Cruise’s gradually spiralling out of control situation, hiding money, trying not to get killed whilst also looking out for his wife and kid. Cruise brings his usual charisma to his performance but it’s refreshingly free of those typical Cruise-isms making for a more believable and human performance than we’ve seen in a while. Add to this welcome support from a slimy Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, The Last Jedi) and assured direction from Liman and I had a great time with this.
I was surprised how little focus the movie has on Pablo Escobar, reducing the man to little more than a cameo. Also it’s a bit too mad from the off and took some getting into, and is a bit too light-hearted when a bit more grit and darkness might have aided the movie’s overall impact. Yet once the journey started and stakes kept getting raised I was suitably gripped.
With some hype being drummed up for a new Bourne movie, I thought it was as good a time as any to revisit the movie that kick started this franchise. I’ve always liked Matt Damon as an actor and he especially impressed most recently in Martian. However at the time of this movie’s release few people saw him as an action star, especially the fan-base of the best selling books by Robert Ludlum.
However time was to prove the naysayers wrong and here, Damon cements himself as a tough-as-nails guy left for dead in the Mediterranean sea. Once back on terra-firma, he’s out to unravel both the truth behind his own identity and why people are trying to kill him. Along for the ride is a German woman who crosses Bourne’s path, played by the decidedly yummy Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), and the two make for a good pairing as the thrills and spills kick in.
The Bourne movies are sort of like the more serious Bond before Bond went more serious and were a likable alternative, but with a focus on surveillance and teams of assassins out to get our man than over-throwing some megalomaniac villain, and is therefore routed in real-world espionage. Support from the likes of Brian Cox and a near-wordless cameo from Clive Owen bring some colour to proceedings and assured direction from Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith), brilliantly-choreographed fight scenes and a stand-out car chase … this delivered the necessary thrills. In the wake of more violent fair like the first Taken for example, this could have really gone for the jugular, and at times seems to have a rather leisurely pace. However, Damon makes for more than just a believable bad-ass and with his acting credentials conveys vulnerability and charisma. It leaves the viewer in the dark about much of who this guy is though, but I guess that’s what sequels are for.
The Blu-ray is very pleasing. The image itself is acceptable but for a little softness and the muted colour pallet prevents it really popping … but it suits the movie’s tone regardless. However the punchy DTS Master Audio mix hits hard on several occasions and dialogue is crisp. Extras are exhaustive for this release with behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes and a look at the series of novels that inspired a series of movies. A commentary by the director is the icing on a very commendable cake.
There’s something about Tom Cruise’s latest foray into blockbuster territory that feels like it’s late to the party. Mech-suits – didn’t Avatar or Elysium do this already? And don’t get me started on the Groundhog Day plot. But I digress. This has Cruise as a Major in the army who reports on the war against an alien race that has invaded earth. On a routine visit to report on the latest onslaught, he suddenly gets shoehorned into battle against his will. Only thing is once on the battlefield and seriously outnumbered by the enemy, Cruise (or Cage as his character is named) discovers that getting killed is only the start of the longest day of his life. Along the way he meets up with war hero Emily Blunt who may just know why he’s repeating his day over and over again.
Cruise is decent in not a particularly demanding role…he gets to shoot aliens a lot and look sort of awkward in his mechanised suit, but surrounded by a group of clichéd ‘grunts’ he stands out (despite an entertaining Bill Paxton). Better is Blunt, one of the more interesting and has to be said bad-ass of the current female acting crop and her presence means this movie had echoes of Looper what with it’s time-paradox storyline. It’s not as clever as that movie though and lacks any real depth to the characters or especially the aliens who just look like throwbacks to The Matrix’s sentinels. More interesting is the repeating day plot-device which director Doug Liman plays with wonderfully and at times the getting-it-wrong moments are quite funny (Cruise daringly rolls under a passing tuck … with a resulting splat).
I would have liked more of a love story-angle to Cruise & Blunt’s partnership (it’s certainly hinted at) and maybe some more detail on the aliens … and just why the day is repeating all the time left me saying … er, what was that again? However, the movie makes up for such shortcomings with several superb action sequences (the beach stuff is like a futuristic Saving Private Ryan) and on a decent set up, with a big screen and surround sound…this packed a punch. Just a shame it’s fairly basic characterisation and copy-cat ideas prevent it from being a classic.
In an age where concept is king, then as far as the idea thrown on the table is concerned, Jumper presses the big red button. You see, Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen (proving himself a credible action hero) plays a kid who after a near-death experience discovers he can teleport himself to anywhere in the world, in just a blink of an eye. Now that’s a talent, and at first it’s his key out of a crappy life where the girl at school hardly notices him (The OC’s Rachel Bilson), and he comes home every night to a drunken father who just yells at him, after the Mother walked out on them years previously.
Before long though, his new found life and riches (he’s become the ‘perfect’ bank robber), is interrupted by Samuel L. Jackson’s shady Government agent, who seems to know all about him. What follows is a very unique action adventure as this kid struggles to make sense of his abilities whilst running for his life. Hence some stunning action sequences that really knock you out of your seat. A worthy mention must also go to Jamie Bell’s vigilante who has the same skills as Hayden, and pretty much steals the movie.
Director Doug Liman, honing his talents on Bourne Identity and Mr & Mrs Smith once again delivers a unique, gritty spin on the action movie and brings to the screen what I think the Matrix sequels should have delivered a few years earlier. Roll on whatever this director comes up with next!
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