The Bourne Legacy


Viewed – 04 October 2016  Blu-ray

It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy.  Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up.  Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.

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I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely.  The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too.  Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series.  I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.

Rachel WeiszI can see why this was mostly ignored in the series.  There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience.  Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system.  Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)   4 /5

The Bourne Ultimatum


Viewed – 26 July 2016  Blu-ray

So we come to the third movie in this popular franchise and this is where several plot threads begin to get tied off as deadly former assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) searches for the answers he needs to his identity.  Along for the ride this time around in the form of a new ally is Julia Stiles who tries to help Bourne piece together the final details whilst the CIA, headed by Joan Allen try to cover everything up.

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Paul Greengrass once again takes directing duties and much like the last movie has a flair for shaky camera rapid-fire editing, but unlike Supremacy the plot is at times less coherent and the confusion that blighted that movie’s final act seems to be in full force here.  It’s certainly fun watching Bourne out smart various CIA surveillance teams and uncover skeletons in various closets, but it also means this is probably the most repetitive of the franchise, with the run time mostly dedicated to watching, sneaking, getting into a fight, then more watching and sneaking.

The-Bourne-Ultimatum-This does bring together the storyline of all three movies well and the viewer is given some closure about Bourne even if questions still remain unanswered.  Yet thrilling car, bike and on-foot chases and plenty of action meant I was far from bored.  The movie just needed to have more character moments and a bit more downtime between scenes to catch one’s breath (simple office scenes are filmed like they take place in the middle of an earthquake).  However, this was still entertaining despite struggling to forge it’s own, er…identity and therefore by default is the weakest entry so far.

The Blu-ray is again impressive and is packed with extras including a director commentary and wealth of behind the scenes footage and interviews.  The image is perhaps the best of the franchise up to this point and even though the shaky camera approach causes issues with focus, it’s still pops off the screen.  The same can also be said for the sound which envelopes the viewer in a wall of sound and atmosphere throughout.  A treatment somewhat undeserving but welcome all the same.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

The Bourne Supremacy


Viewed – 19 July 2016  Blu-ray

I don’t know why, as someone who enjoyed the first movie in this franchise, I didn’t get around to seeing this sequel until the other day.  Matt Damon is once again hard-as-nails CIA assassin Jason Bourne who lives a life of leisure with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) until he gets set up for the theft of some top secret files.  Soon his former employees are out to get him as he struggles to stay one step ahead and unmask the real culprit.

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Taking over directing duties this time from Doug Liman is Paul Greengrass, who despite lacking some of the subtlety and finesse of Liman has made a tighter, albeit rapidly edited but more exciting movie.  Support comes in the shape of Joan Allen as a CIA chief out to apprehend Bourne and Brian Cox also returns as Bourne’s former boss.   I felt the stakes seemed a lot higher this time and although the finer details on certain plot threads connecting certain sequences seemed to get muddled as the action kicked in (including possibly one of the best car chases I’ve seen) … I was still gripped from beginning to end.

JoanAllenUnlike the last movie, there’s nobody to really touch Damon’s performance that is once again complex, emotional and bad-ass.  Allen seems particularly under-developed.  A superior sequel in the adrenaline stakes then, which suffers a couple of coherence issues.  Yet as it stands, this remains a thrilling follow-up that left this viewer thirsty for more.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing.  The image looks great (a little dark but a clear step up from Identity) and the audio packs a hefty punch and is clear and atmospheric.  The extras are again plentiful with several featurettes, behind the scenes footage, interviews and an invaluable commentary from the director.  A great treatment to what is possibly the most underrated movie in the series.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

The Bourne Identity


Viewed – 12 July 2016 Blu-ray

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.

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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.

Bourne Identity MarieThe 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.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

The Martian


Viewed – 01 March 2016  Blu-ray

There seems to have been a bit of a trend in recent years for quality science fiction, or more literally quality space travel movies.  I think it began with Doug Jones’ acclaimed ‘Moon’ and then followed through with Gravity and then Interstellar.  Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with the great vastness of space again, and I have fallen in love along with them.  So this latest effort was high on my must see list.

the martian

Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who following an expedition to Mars, is left unknowingly behind by his crew following a freak sand storm.  With everyone thinking he is dead and a memorial back home, Watney has to learn how to survive on an alien planet until he can find out a way of communicating and hopefully getting rescued.  Based on the book by Andy Wier and directed by genre heavy-weight Ridley Scott, this is a gripping concept as we watch Damon put all his scientific knowhow to the test and learn to adapt to a harsh environment.  Back home Nasa and its myriad of boffins are also trying to figure out a way to save their man, headed by Jeff Daniels and supported by Kristina Wiig and Sean Bean amongst various other familiar faces.  Oh and the crew that left Watney jessica-chastain-the-martianbehind get the always watchable Jessica Chastian as their commander.  It’s clear to me this was a bit of a labour of love and is choc-full of detail and science terminology (even days are referred to a sol 1 and sol 2 etc).  Yet beyond some of the realism and authenticity the movie also finds room for well judged humour.  We also get a strongly potent emotional thread that builds and gets pretty heart-breaking.  Everyone here is on very good form but it’s obviously Damon’s show and he is simply superb…charismatic in the face of adversity and also very believable.  He’d have been my tip for Best Actor at the Oscars but sadly it wasn’t to be.

In addition to such a solid, layered performance however is excellent direction from Scott, who aided by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, proves again he’s a master at capturing the perfect look and feel for Science Fiction, and redeems himself after the muddled Prometheus.  Some of the shots and vistas and photography here are jaw-dropping.  Honestly, there is very little I can say negative about this one apart from hey, where were Mark Watney’s parents??  And the first act is a trifle slow, but that’s some serious nit-picking.  If you are fascinated by space travel or are just attracted to decent human survival dramas, not unlike The Revenant I’ll add … then you have to see this.

Verdict:  5 /5