The sound design of the film has incredible dynamic range, from ear-splitting car chases to long scenes of almost total silence. This matches the plot and emotional content of the story, which goes from calm and passive to brutal, gory violence in jumps you know are coming, but which nevertheless arrive as gut-wrenching shocks. The way the film builds tension is incredible. I loved it.
I’d seen the trailer, and I’d been too fascinated by the robot-human interaction story; I hadn’t realized that Frank’s dementia is the twin theme. It’s a sweet story, but it was a bit of an emotional trip.
David Rice is a high-school nobody, until he accidentally discovers that he can jump – teleport himself to places he has been before. He runs away from his broken home, robs a few banks, and sets himself up with a cushy lifestyle. But then he discovers that he is not alone in his abilities, and that a shadowy organisation of Paladins has been hunting jumpers for hundreds of years. And they have David right in their sights.
Because I haven’t read the Steven Gould book the film is based on, I’m just going to take it on its own merits. First of all, the film is a traditional wish-fulfilment fantasy: ordinary boy discovers he has a secret ability, and discovers that because of this secret, dark powers are ranged against him. Adventures ensue, during which he gains mastery of his ability, and uses it to defeat his enemies.
Executed well, this is a great, classic plot, and Jumper does a very good job with it. Hayden Christensen (who plays David) often comes across as bland and monotone, in a handsome way, but in this serves the film well: it emphasizes David’s essential ordinariness, apart from his ability to jump. He doesn’t know kung-fu. He doesn’t dress up in a costume and fight evil. He uses his powers to make his life lush and easy, not to better mankind. So when he first encounters the bad guys (Samuel L. Jackson & co.), he is totally outmatched.
This is where the other jumper, Griffin, comes in. Griffin (played brilliantly by Jamie Bell) is a fast-talking, bitter, and somewhat unhinged young man who has been running from the Paladins, and fighting back, all his life. He is the archetypal mentor in the story, with the twist that he sees David as more of a threat than a student. He doesn’t want David upsetting all his plans and jeopardising his carefully hidden base. He is by far the more interesting of the two, but the needs of the plot dictates that he is relegated to the role of edgy, antagonistic ally. (At least they decided not to make him “wise-cracking”, too.) Still, because he doesn’t die (ah, damn it, spoiler), the door is open for him to play a more important part in the sequel.
Which brings me to OMG HOW BLATENTLY OPEN-ENDED CAN A FILM GET?? Fully the last fifteen minutes are spent carefully not resolving plot lines and setting up the pieces for Jumper 2. Which, given its box office so far, is a near certainty. Really, you could even see it as a pilot for a TV series than a stand-alone film.
But still…I liked it. It reminded me a lot of The Bourne Identity, also directed by Doug Liman. Just like Jason Bourne, David Rice has to rely on his own abilities instead of the gadgets and resources of some powerful agency. Both characters are hunted outcasts, gradually fighting their way inwards to the core of a conspiracy. (Even the soundtrack for Jumper has overtones of Bourne – the main theme sounds an awful lot like Moby’s Extreme Ways.) This is what it comes down to for me: it’s a good hero story. I’m just a sucker for those.
It’s rare to see a calm, measured tone and approach taken in a serial killer film. Zodiac is based on Robert Graysmith’s book about the Zodiac killer who killed several people in California in the late 1960s and 70s, and then taunted the police and newspapers by sending them strange coded messages.
What you don’t get are tense chase scenes where the killer manages to escape pursuit by fleeing across the rooftops, or a nail-biting climax where the killer is in the house! but the hero doesn’t realize it. What you do get is a thoughtful, almost documentary-like examination of the journalists (Robert Downey, Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Graysmith himself) and police detectives (Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards) as they struggle to piece together the evidence and come up with a theory strong enough to put a stop to the murders.
At about 2.5 hours, it’s not a short thrill-flick, but Greysmith’s obsession to keep the investigation going translates into a plot that never sags, and stays fascinating to the end.
After seeing The Prestige I decided that Christopher Nolan is the best film director of the century (so far). To back this up, I offer up his oevre of full-length films to date: The Prestige, Batman Begins, Insomnia, Memento, and Following.
You probably haven’t heard of Following, because it’s a low-budget black-and-white feature from 1999 starring only part-time actors. But even as his first full-length film, it already shows many of Nolan’s trademarks: a twisty plot, back-stabbing characters who are a lot darker than they at first seem, and a tense narrative that flits back and forth in time in a manner crafted to conceal and seduce rather than to blind and confuse.
The story starts with an unemployed writer who decides to follow random people on the street. Not in a scary stalky way, but just to learn more about who they are, and what they do. But when he follows the same mysterious man twice, he gets caught in the act. This man, Cobb, turns out to be a burglar. He introduces the writer to his techniques, and gets him to try a couple of break-ins himself. And then things start to go really wrong.
The only place you’ll probably be able to find this is an on-line rental service, but if you liked any of Nolan’s other films, I think you’ll find it worth your while to put it in your queue.
Tense and emotional thriller about a diamond smuggler who discovers his conscience. Although it gets a bit melodramatic and overly “worthy” at the end, I was gripped throughout. (I think I may have mentioned this before, but I really think that Leonardo DiCaprio has turned into one of the best actors of my generation. His performance here is brilliant as always.)