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 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 Man from U.N.C.L.E.


Viewed – 08 December 2015  Online rental

It’s not often a movie wows and disappoints in almost equal measure.  However this 60s set spy adaptation of the popular TV series of yesteryear did just that.  Director Guy Ritchie’s take on the spy genre is rich in an authentic 60s look and feel complete with impeccable editing, cinematography and imagery straight out of a cigarette commercial or a Jean-Luc Godard classic.  From the costumes, the cars, the gadgets and even the choices of music, the look of this movie is fantastic.  Almost any shot in this could be framed and hung on the wall of a high brow art critic’s home.

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However at it’s core is a fairly typical spy yarn that feels fairly dated and straight out of the setting the movie so richly explores … fitting, but a bit lacking ideas we haven’t seen in a ton of Bond movies or said TV show.  The bad guys are also rather bland, sadly.  Yet Ritchie picks from all his tried and tested directing skills: snappy, clever split-screen moments, some fun action sequences (bar a fairly annoying dune buggy chase) and plenty of well observed humour.  Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill steals the show as the swarve and brilliantly named Napoleon Solo; a CIA agent who is forced to team up with a KGB agent (Social Network’s equally likeable Armie Hammer).  Their pairing makes for much of the entertainment as the agents squabble, try and out wit one another and help a gorgeous French girl track down her bomb-making father who is working for a couple of terrorists.

Man-from-Uncle-Movie-Yet with such fun odd-couple banter and movie making flashiness comes a story that twists and double deals and confuses throughout (not helped by a ton of subtitles that again, are presented in a very stylish manner) … leaving this viewer often not entirely sure what was going on.  It all gets a lot clearer in the final moments but by then my head was spinning.  Seriously, this movie’s style actually distracted me from the plot, the characters and well, everything.  Call it style over substance if you like, but this stumbled when it really should have flown.  Sort of like a very attractive woman who blinds you from the fact she just lifted your wallet.  I admired it on a purely artistic scale, and was well cast mostly, but that doesn’t mean it completely won me over.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Spy


Viewed – 01 December 2015  Online-rental

I have to admit I quite like Melissa McCarthy.  I thought she was hilarious in Bridesmaids and followed her star-making turn well with the amiable Identity Thief.  She’s not just funny either, she’s likable.  So her latest venture has her as a desk clerk who is the eyes and ears for her man on the ground Jude Law; a highly skilled spy with more than a passing Bond complex (with a bit more cheese…).  However said spy goes missing and soon McCarthy gets her chance to go on a mission of her own, and maybe finally prove her worth to the CIA.

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Typical fish-out-of-water stuff granted but given no end of personality by the ever enjoyable McCarthy who throws herself (sometimes literally) into the task of tracking down bad guys and seeing off the advances of a lecherous side-kick.  At the same time she has gung-ho rival agent Jason Statham to deal with (more full of shit than full of action), and also on hand is Brit comedienne Miranda Hart … whose inclusion threatens to ruin everything because well, she is just not funny.  I don’t get her popular but cringy brand of ‘posh/awkward’.  I just don’t.  Also a cameo by rapper 50 Cent feels like he’s wondered off a music video onto the wrong set.

spy judeIt’s a movie of two halves for sure … the first plodding getting to know the main character, sympathise as she swoons over Jude Law and dreams of better things … stuff.  Not that interesting but gets a lot more fun once McCarthy gets caught up with villains, bombs and globe trotting, whilst kicking ass, donning disguises and being involved in chases.  Rose Byrne is very good too as the lead bad-girl megalomaniac (and those legs!) but a rather predictable, clichéd plot and a reliance on annoying supporting characters stops Spy reaching it’s full potential.

I enjoyed this, but better use of it’s cast and a sharper script could have made for a more memorable experience.  As a McCarthy vehicle however, this did it’s job.

Verdict:  3 /5

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Viewed – 03 August 2015  Cinema

Good to see that one of our most enduring Hollywood stars can still deliver a pulse-pounding action extravaganza even as he settles into his fifth decade on this planet.  Add to this the fact he does many of his own stunts, and actor Tom Cruise is the real deal, regardless of what some may think of him personally.

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Cruise plays super-agent Ethan Hunt who, currently in hiding and ‘gone rogue’ is trying to unmask the real identity of secret organization ‘the syndicate’ whilst back at Langley, CIA headquarters the big wigs are disbanding the IMF.  Following a lead in London, Hunt witnesses the murder of a contact and the revelation that those he believed he worked for may be involved in a global conspiracy.   Like Ghost Protocol before it, this is a confident and well directed spy movie full of fancy gadgets, intense action and lots of double-crossing.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) has put together what feels like the Mission Impossible movie we’ve all been waiting for – the action feels bigger, the locations more diverse and glamorous (London, Paris, Vienna etc.) and the story seems more dramatic.  Add to this a wonderful discovery in actress Rebecca Ferguson, who may be the sexiest (and deadliest) femme-fatale we’ve had on screen in years, and with excellent comedic support from Simon Pegg – this almost has it all.

Rogue NationI felt that even for an M.I. movie, sometimes the stunts and situations got a little implausible (a somersaulting car?), and some moments were just plane mad (the admitedly tense under water sequence).  Also, creepy-demeanour aside, the villain was again like Ghost Protocol, rather one-dimensional.  It was a shame to also see Jeremy Renner not be fully utilized for such a gifted actor … but regardless, this was still a shot of adrenaline to the heart and packed full of memorable moments, an amazing car turned bike chase, and an ending that made me want to stand up and applaud.  With Spectre on the horizon, I’d say in the spy movie world, this is going to take some beating.

Over to you, Mr Bond.

Verdict:  4 /5