Archive for May 11, 2018

The Ludlummox

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2018 by dcairns

And so to the ludicrously-named THE BOURNE SUPREMACY. Parlour game: invent a Robert Ludlum property that’s stupid-sounding enough to not be convincing — THE DOBERMANN INCONGRUITY, THE PIPKIN UNCERTAINTY, THE NIFFELNEGGER IMPONDERABLE all sound like they might pass. THE GREENGRASS TREMOR?

Brit Paul Greengrass, fresh from the success of the emotional and effective BLOODY SUNDAY, slides into a director’s chair still warm from Doug Liman’s buttocks. Tony Gilroy takes solo screenplay credit for the one time in the trilogy. I don’t like his ROGUE ONE or DEVIL’S ADVOCATE scripts, but is the acclaimed MICHAEL CLAYTON actually good?

Immediately the team pulls a no-no, killing of Lola Run, leading lady from the previous film. I think the argument against this kind of thing — ALIEN³ is probably the most notorious example — is that when a movie ends happily, the audience is being told that the characters are going to be OK, and when you bump off a major one in the sequel, you make a liar out of the first film and betray your fanbase, the very people invested in your story. Here, I might allow the filmmakers some latitude because (a) I wasn’t very invested in the character or relationship and (2) the death scene is the emotional high point of the film, despite being staged underwater. Casting directors take note: Matt Damon may be our best underwater actor. Partner him with Sally Hawkins immediately.

Now Matt Damon is out for revenge, except that’s not what Lola Run would have wanted, so he’s out to find out the truth and stop himself being killed, which is pretty much same as last time. Karl Urban is his main physical opponent and Brian Cox, returning from film 1, is the bad guy at the CIA. There are two kinds of British bad guy: the kind with a British accent that marks them as untrustworthy, and the kind with an unconvincing American accent that marks them as SUPER untrustworthy. In the third film, Albert Finney pops up and is, obviously, the most untrustworthy man in the galaxy.  Brian Cox hides, pissing off his co-star.

We’re also joined by Joan Allen — effortlessly the best thing in the film — and Julia Styles, who looks like she’s being groomed as the next leading lady for Bourne, only he’s not quite ready for that kind of commitment. So the cast includes Pat Nixon, Judge Dredd, Hannibal Lektor, Lola Run and Damien from THE OMEN’s mom. Bourne is going to have to do some serious head-kicking here.

And he does, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. The fights are all insanely over-cut, not as incoherent as Christopher Nolan at his worst, but messy and no fun to watch. The car chases are even worse, and the music is kinda horrible, so they’re pretty enervating rather than exciting. (John Powell’s score for the third film is a considerable improvement on his work here.) The reason I’d call the editing bad is not just what it does in the fights, but the way it chops a basic action into pieces, using three shots for a man parking his car where one would do. Breaking Sidney Pollock’s Law: Let the boring crap be boring crap. Fact: if you chapter hop rapidly through this film you see cars, trams, airports. You’d think it was a documentary about public transport in Europe. I feel like the DVD was bad quality, with an unpleasant digital look, so maybe I can’t fairly judge DOP Oliver Wood’s work, but my impression is that this whole series is mostly ugly-looking. Even the green-tinged fluorescent lighting, which can be BEAUTIFULLY ugly in some movies, is just yucky here.

The dialogue is better than the previous film — we should probably give Gilroy credit for reducing the corniness. And everything with Joan Allen has a certain credibility. The retconning begins, also — the previous film might have left you with the impression that govt. assassin Bourne crapped out on his first mission, but in fact he’s been a highly proficient murderer for some time, though admittedly he was brainwashed so we shouldn’t blame him too much (although I note that when Indiana Jones drank the Black Death of Kali, he was still able to assert his will and humanity. Maybe the CIA has invented something more powerful than the Black Death of Kali, though I for one find that very hard to believe.Good last scene (Joan Allen features prominently). Moby plays us out. I don’t really know why I watched the third film, but I did. To be continued…

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