Movie Review: “Jason Bourne”

Starring
Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Bill Camp
Director
Paul Greengrass

There are film franchises where each installment comes with a checklist of the beats the film will hit. A chase, a shot, a musical cue, a line of dialogue, a plot device, those sorts of things. “Jason Bourne” takes that idea to an absurd level. This is a film where the audience isn’t just reminded that they’re watching a Bourne film (though they are, constantly); at times, they’re watching a featurette on the making of a Bourne film. Several scenes are staged in such a manner that they look like test runs of the final shot, rather than the final shot. The plot is rather threadbare for a series that prides itself on convoluted story lines, but the most damning thing about “Jason Bourne” is what a bloodless, cold viewing experience it is. From start to finish, I was not emotionally invested in a single thing that took place. In fact, I couldn’t wait for it to be over – definitely a first for a Bourne film.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living off the grid, making money in underground fighting. He receives a visit from former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who tells Jason that she has hacked the CIA database and has uncovered information on Treadstone, the now-defunct program of which he was a part, as well as their latest program, which involves surveillance. The database hack draws the attention of Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a talented and ambitious coder who works for CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Dewey enlists an assassin, known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), to find and kill Bourne. As Lee listens to Dewey talk about Bourne, she starts to question Dewey’s motives and volunteers to run point on Bourne’s capture (or death) in order to discover if there is more to the story.

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Movie Review: “Captain Phillips”

Starring
Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdirahman, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus
Director
Paul Greengrass

There’s an inordinate amount of movies based on true stories being released this season (even more so than usual), and Tom Hanks stars in two of them. But while his appearance as Walt Disney in the upcoming drama “Saving Mr. Banks” is likely considered the higher profile role, it’s hard to imagine how the actor will be able to top his brilliant, all-in performance as the title character in “Captain Phillips.” Though the film suffers from a bloated runtime and is a tad one-sided in its depiction of the antagonists, “Captain Phillips” is nonetheless a gripping hostage thriller that boasts some of the year’s finest performances, not only by Hanks, but his amateur co-stars as well.

Based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American-flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates and the remarkable bravery of Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) in deterring their efforts, the movie begins with the MV Maersk Alabama setting sail on a routine trip around the Horn of Africa. Recognizing the dangers that exist in those waters, Phillips orders his crew to practice prevention tactics against possible hijackers, only for the drill to become a real-world situation when he notices two skiffs approaching in the distance, each carrying four Somali pirates with automatic weapons. When one of the boats succeeds in attaching a ladder to the Alabama, the pirates – led by charismatic captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi) – board the cargo ship and take control, forcing Phillips to help locate the rest of his hidden crew members. But when things don’t go as planned for the desperate hijackers, Muse takes Phillips hostage and escapes on the ship’s lifeboat, leading to a tense standoff between the Somali pirates and the U.S. Navy.

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