Posts Tagged ‘matt damon

09
Jun
10

‘Bourne’ Dons Camo for the ‘Green Zone’

Mission Accomplished?

Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Khalid Abdalla, and Yigal Naor. Directed by Paul Greengrass

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass team up once again for what some would call ‘Bourne 4.’ (‘The Bourne Conspiracy’ maybe?) It’s not a ‘Bourne’ film per se but if the ‘Bourne’ series and ‘The Hurt Locker’ had it a kid, this would be it. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

Damon is Roy Miller, leader of the 85th Division whose job is to search for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). It’s 2003 and the U.S. has just began its war with Iraq. We’re bombing the country on a daily basis and have cut off the water and electricity, which isn’t making things any easier.

On an intensive mission into a hotspot, Damon and his company close-in on an abandoned factory to find… nothing. Returning to base he tries questioning some of the higher ups about the intel and the fact that every place his company is sent to is complete bunk; there are positively no signs that WMDs were ever there or manufactured there. The ranking Officers quickly shut him up, stating that the intel comes from a reliable source. Before heading to Al Monsour CIA official Martin Brown (Gleeson) tells him that yes, the intel is bunk and if he wants to do the right thing to give him a call.

Enter Special Intelligence official Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear). He’s heading up the group who plans to put an Iraqi exile in control of the Iraqi government now that Saddam has went into hiding. He’s also the guy responsible for informing the President that there were WMDs. Brown points out that in order to keep the country from going into civil war they need to put in place an Iraqi who has ties to the people, not a guy who has been in exile for 30 years. Poundstone doesn’t want to hear any of it and continues on.

Add to the mix Washington Post columnist Lawrie Dayne (Ryan). Poundstone is her source for information in regards to a character named “Magellan,” who is the one providing the intelligence on the Iraqi WMD sites. Dayne wants to speak with Magellan to confirm her stories and Poundstone claims that it’s out of his hands; Magellan is tightly locked-up. Dayne points out that as the guy overlooking Special Intelligence he should have access to Magellan; Poundstone doesn’t give an answer.

The Al Monsour site is being dug up and Miller is pissed. He knows that there’s nothing to find. When an altercation with an Iraqi named “Freddy” (Abdalla) leads him to follow a suggestion, Miller nearly comes face-to-face with the enemy: General Al Rawi (Naor), Saddam’s righ-hand man. It appears that several of the leaders of the Iraqi Army made a pledge to hold off from attacking the Americans until an agreement/contract could be made. Miller comes in on the tail-end of that deal and a firefight causes Al Rawi to go into hiding. Miller takes Freddy along as an interpreter so he can get the infamous “Jack of Clubs” (Rawi’s picture is on a deck of Iraqi leader playing cards).

After a prisoner Miller took hostage is taken from him, Miller goes to Brown who helps him devise a plan to get to a guy who can help him get to Rawi. They both believe that Rawi in control of Iraq will help bring peace. Dayne meets Miller and agrees with him that the WMD site info is complete B.S. and she makes mention of Magellan? Who is he? Poundstone finds out that Miller took a notebook from the prisoner he took and gave it to the CIA. That notebook contains the information on Al Rawi safehouses. It’s only a matter of time before Rawi is killed and if Miller’s going to save him, he’s going to have to act quickly.

This film is a spy film/political thriller with Army people. Damon isn’t so much ‘Bourne’ as he is a guy who actually cares and says, “Hey, what a minute! What’s going on here?” He’s not as smart as Bourne but he’s smart and agile enough, which are qualities he needs if being The Guy Who Gets Into a Conspiracy Against Those Higher Than His Paygrade. You know the scenario: guy finds something wrong. The Powers That Be try ignoring him at first but he gets under someone’s skin and people around him are killed left and right while the hunt is on for him, and he’s trying to get the piece of evidence that will blow the lid off everything.

This formula works for the film and provides interesting parameters. That is, the ones around him can’t really be killed because they all work for the same organization. Aside from that, it’s an action-adventure conspiracy movie that will have you guessing what will happen until the end.

And that may not work for a lot of people. I’m a fan of the “thinking movie,” and for those wanting emotional attachment to characters, you’re not going to find it here. The characters work but aren’t too deep because they are serving the story which acts as a fiction “What if this is the reason behind the war in Iraq?” I repeat: it’s fictional. Those wanting the hard, intensive grittiness of “The Hurt Locker” won’t find it here; no one stops to assess the damage done.

Gleeson is interesting as a CIA official and pulls off a non-descript accent fairly well. Kinnear works as the Special Intelligence official who leads us into the war but he could have been a little more evil. Amy Ryan is limited to being a third-wheel in it all, but works. And Damon has solidified his ability to be a “thinking” action star.

As I said, I liked it. Some films you walk out and while you like them, they’re popcorn; digest and move on. I would seriously consider seeing this film a second time because it’s more about the story being told than the sum of the characters in it. And yes, Greengrass breaks out the Shaky-Cam but after a while it becomes acceptable because there is a hint of truth to the story going on. A hint. Again, it’s a fictional “What If?” scenario that doesn’t stop until you know what happened and while not the hard-hitting piece that “Hurt Locker” or ones like it are, it doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

My grade: B+

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com

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30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Invictus

Go rugby!

Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Based on the book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation,” by John Carlin

1995. A man trying to keep a country united during change. A rugby team given the charge of going all the way to the World Cup. Adversity. Perseverance. And yet, there was something missing.

Story (and history for those not in the know): Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist who was released from prison after 27 years in 1990. He began campaigning for reconciliation, trying to achieve a balance between races. He ran for election and governed as President of South Africa from 1994-1999. To this day he offers his opinions on political topics and is a celebrated elder statesman.

The movie begins –roughly- with Mandela (Freeman) taking power. With blacks in South Africa able to vote alongside whites for the first time, Mandela has been chosen President. Several of the whites, fearing for themselves and/or their jobs, start to leave the Presidential office when Mandela has a meeting and tells them that if they want to leave they can go but if they want to stay and help, it would be a great service to their country.

Rugby is the national sport and the current team, the South African Springboks, leave something to be desired in terms of winning. Team Captain Francois Pienaar (Damon) has come under a lot of heat for not winning and the local community votes to change the team name, colors, etc. Mandela intervenes and persuades them to reverse the decision.

Mandela calls for a meeting with Pienaar and instills in him the idea of taking the Springboks all the way to the World Cup. With the whole country, if not the world, watching South Africa and its rugby team, will Mandela’s hopes pay off?

Director Clint Eastwood softens the line between politics and sports in tackling the subject matter. The movie is as much about a man fighting the effects of apartheid and unifying a racially torn nation as it is places hope in a team that blacks and whites don’t want to root for, but both sides need to. The country focuses on this one team which no one believes has a shot of going all the way.

What I just described sounds great on paper, even compelling, and the book may be great (I’ve not read it) but the movie seems to feel flat. Maybe it’s out sense of “film programming” in the way that we want our heroes, our teams, to overcome adversity in terms that we can relate to, or for them to go through the ups and downs as they reach the prize. Here the most confrontational anything gets is when Mandela’s bodyguards have white Presidential bodyguards that they have to accept and work with. Aside from stares and shrugs, that’s it. As for the Springboks it’s more about media scrutiny and the fact that they are given the task of winning for South Africa, which no one seems to have a big problem with; again, more short scenes but no one character feels drowned or over-burdened with the responsibility of answering the call.

And maybe Eastwood wasn’t going for that; maybe he just wanted to tell the simple, yet incredible, story of a team that brought a country together. He did just that but it didn’t feel incredible, just something that was going to happen anyway.

I also had problems with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. Both are iconic in their respective fields, entertainment and politics, but should one icon be played by another? I read that the only person Mandela saw as able to play him was Freeman and that’s the first person who signed-on to the movie but… it’s difficult to see Freeman as humble. He’s played cops/detectives, God, a Civil War soldier, etc. but I just had problems seeing past the actor as the being the public figure.

Lack of character development may have been the culprit. Pienaar, the team’s captain, comes from a well-to-do white South African family that has a live-in maid and has a beautiful girlfriend (Marguerite Wheatley). The only thing the guy has to do is show up and get his team into shape for the World Cup. No esteem issues, no drugs, no otherwise erroneous or law-breaking behavior or flaws; just rugby.

As for what the title has to do with anything: while in prison Mandela found a poem called “Invictus,” which was originally written by William Ernest Henley in 1875. Invictus means “unconquerable” in Latin. Briefly, I’ll post the last of the poem:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Otherwise it’s a good movie. Not great but an interesting “snapshot” of a certain time and place.

My grade: B-

14
Oct
09

Movie Review: The Informant!

informant_ver2

Lies, lies, and corporate lies!

Starring Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey and Scott Bakula. Directed by Steve Soderbergh.

Mix equal parts of “The Tailor of Panama” and “The Insider.” Stir in “American Psycho” inner monologue. Serve to the entire theater.

So goes the story of Mark Whitacre (Damon), Vice President of ADM, a corn-based company located in Decatur, IL. ADM makes Lysine which is injected into corn products as well as any food that has anything to do with corn (note: too many to list). Whitacre is a former biochemist turned businessman faced with a problem: there’s a virus in the mix which is limiting their production and losing the company $7 million a day. Whitacre claims that there’s a saboteur at the Japanese plant who can be outed for $10 mil. Corporate sabotage justifies the FBI to tap Whitacre’s phone line and Agent Bryan Shepard (Bakula) arrives on the scene. Faced with the possibility that he may be found out, Whitacre’s wife Ginger (Lynskey) pleads to Mark to tell the truth and, facing whatever she may say, he tells Shepard about corporate price fixing.

The wheels slowly go into motion. Shepard has an informant on the corporate world who may leak one of the biggest finds ever: a corporation adjusting the price for corn products in various locations just because they can. Whitacre finds in Shepard the ability to expurgate every wrongdoing he sees the company having a part in. His plan: to wipe-out the bad guys leaving him, the shining white knight of justice. He wears wires and holds conferences in places where he has tipped-off the FBI to meetings.

“He tells the truth one day and the next he tells you two lies.” Such is the problem Shepard has with Whitacre. Every truth leads him to more lies and once those lies are explained and set to the truth, more lies follow. Whitacre is affable, personable, and believes that what he’s doing is right and does so with no apparent malice. He wants to go his own way hoping everything will go as planned.

Meanwhile Shepard is trying to make a case against the corporation and finds himself hampered by the same person claiming to “help.” Whitacre tells Shepard one thing, Shepard comments and advises a direction, then Whitacre does what he wants to do without regard to whether it’s safe, sane, or correct. Eventually he becomes the “scapegoat” of Whitacre’s frustrations with himself.

Filmmaker Soderbergh treats the material in a manner akin to being a 70s film; think Coppola’s “The Conversation” via a bumbling exec with the jazz soundtrack of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Instead of making it like Mann’s “The Insider” or a Sidney Lumet thriller, Soderbergh shows that Whitacre wasn’t the only one who made some dumb moves; the FBI did their fare share as well. Plus there’s the “hazy-filter” shots, the attention to (now dated) technology, and the general lightheartedness of Whitacre.

“See this? I’m double-oh-fourteen. ‘Cause I’m twice as smart as James Bond.” No doubt Damon enjoyed saying this line because he’s played Jason Bourne and is known for not being a big fan of the Bond franchise. This line suits Whitacre entirely because, let’s face it, the man is too caught up in saving himself to do the right thing. For instance Shepard tells Whitacre to tell ADM that he will get his own lawyer and that he is cooperating with the government. Whitacre then meets ADM’s lawyer who after having a private consultation says that yes, he will need his own lawyer. He then gets a lawyer and drops the bomb of it all in the firm’s lap. He continues lying and gets a new lawyer, this one a small-town personal injury lawyer. Smart, eh?

Not to be outdone, the question “who is Mark Whitacre?” comes to the forefront and the FBI finds out from ADM’s lawyer that Whitacre was embezzling money the entire 2.5 years he was working undercover for them. How much? First it was $2 million. Then $5 million. Then $7.7 million. The final amount was probably $9.5 million. According to Whitacre he was creating his own severance package in the event he wasn’t working for ADM anymore. This changes the direction from being a case of a VP exposing a corporation to a VP embezzling from the corporation. Shepard’s reputation has been tainted and to make matters worse Whitacre is claiming that Shepard hit him in the face with a briefcase. The lies never end.

The trial comes and goes and Whitacre, having exhausted everything including a claim to being bi-polar, is the biggest loser of all. While his corporate comrades received jail sentences of 3 years each with 45 counts of embezzlement Whitacre receives 9 years and is released in 2006. Whitacre currently works as a COO for a company in California. His wife is still with him.

While the film is enjoyable there is a slight snag: the character never changes. You get into Whitacre’s character via his actions and personal narration but the problem is that he doesn’t change. You empathize with Shepard because he’s trying to do the right thing, the correct thing, and Whitacre just doesn’t care. However, Whitacre isn’t mean or nasty about it; he’s too wrapped-up protecting himself and pretending to be the good guy even until the end. I honestly wanted to see Whitacre break down and say, “Okay. I’ll stop lying and drawing more attention to myself than I have to,” but that never happens. It’s funny how he subverts the idea of change for the sake of complacency, but not smart. By the end of the movie you appreciate Shepard and still like Whitacre, but less than when you started the journey with him.

Good execution, good story, and good acting.

My grade: a standard B.

21
Aug
09

Bourne Again

On a whim me and a friend decided to watch “The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum” films. Here’s the rundown:

bourne_identity“The Bourne Identity” – Matt Damon stars as the main character, Jason Bourne, a spy found lying facedown in the ocean with two bullets in his back. When he awakes he has amnesia and must piece together who he is and/or was. His one clue to the past is a deposit box which has multiple passports, money, and a gun. This tips off the CIA who are looking for Bourne namely Conklin (Chris Cooper) who sent Bourne on a secret assassination mission that has blown-up in the CIA’s face and brought questioning by another person in-the-know, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox). Bourne enlists the help of Maria (Franka Potente) whom he pays $20,000 to take him to Paris where he hopes to find out more about Project Treadstone.

In Retrospect: I remember watching this movie and loving it, hyping myself up for the sequel. Looking back, it’s still a good movie but I don’t love it as much. At the time it came out (2002) it preceded the final Austin Powers movies as well as the last Pierce Brosnan “James Bond” movie, and this was a welcome change. Both franchises had run their course and Jason Bourne was a spy who didn’t really on gadgets or one-liners; the man could disarm and disable you in three seconds using only his thumb. It was new, fresh, innovative, and action-oriented WITH a story. Doug Liman directed the first film entry in the series and I’ll give him credit for what he did, but it does seem to pale against its sequels (and imitators).

 

 

bourne_supremacy“The Bourne Supremacy” – Classified Russian documents are stolen when a CIA operation is botched and Jason Bourne is framed. On the other side of the globe Bourne is living in India with Maria when he’s spotted and during the ensuing chase, Maria is killed. Bourne returns stateside to find out why he’s being hunted down. Memories of a secret mission that wasn’t part of Treadstone return in bits and pieces and he soon goes to Moscow, returning to the scene of the crime and confronting the hitman initially sent to kill him as well as apologizing to the daughter of the couple whom he assassinated. This time around he’s being tracked down by Pamela Landy (Joan Allen).

In Retrospect: I liked this movie as much as “Bourne Identity” when it came out, citing the fact that the extra car chase was “the cherry on top of an already good movie.” Re-watching it, I liked it even more than the first. Sure, the camerawork during the fight scenes can get a little crazy or choppy, but overall it kept a cohesive story amid all the chaos.

 

 

bourne_ultimatum“The Bourne Ultimatum” – A journalist for the UK paper The Guardian (Paddy Considine) has found out about Jason Bourne and is trying to expose him, along with information on a Top Secret project called Black Briar. Bourne has to get to the bottom of things and runs into Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who happens to be working for the guy trying to sell the CIA secrets. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (CIA), Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) is honing in on the journalist when Bourne comes into the picture. Landy is sent in to help him with Bourne and, just in case, to be a scapegoat. Bourne must clear his name while trying to find out more information on Black Briar.

 

In Retrospect: I had such high hopes for this movie before I saw it in theatres. After watching it I wasn’t so much nauseous (major shaky-cam) as much as let down. It felt like an amalgamation of the other two Bourne films.

And I was partially right.

I’m reminded of a quote John Carpenter said about sequels which went something to the effect of people want the same movie over again. Sitting back and watching the other two Greengrass, as well as scriptwriters Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi, seemed to look at “The Bourne Identity” and say, “We can just use THIS script again!” Replace Chris Cooper with David Stathairn, Brian Cox with Albert Finney, Clive Owen with Joey Ansah, and even Franka Potente with Julia Stiles, and you have “The Bourne Identity Deux.”

And to make matters worse is the 1:20 (hrs:mins) point, where we find out that everything we’ve been watching takes place before the end of “Supremacy.” So, while Bourne was busy discovering why he was framed and avenging the death of his wife, he ALSO had time to find out about the other Black Ops Program, Black Briar. Did any of these guys think about this while it was happening, or just hope to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes? Fool me once, shame on me; I didn’t get fooled the second time.

 

THE WINNER: “The Bourne Supremacy.” A good blend of action-adventure with a plot and storyline.

 “The Bourne Identity” still holds, but not as well as “Supremacy.” “The Bourne Ultimatum?” More horrible than when I first watched it.

14
Nov
08

Movies With (a) Vengeance

While it has been busy here at the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research proudly brings you

 

TOP TEN REVENGE MOVIES

 

once_upon_a_time_in_the_west“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) – Charles Bronson stars as Harmonica, a man with a mysterious past who arrives in Flagstone, AZ. He walks into a situation involving a guy named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and Jill (Claudia Cardinale), a woman whose family she married into had been murdered by Frank (Henry Fonda), a “gun for hire” via railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti). To find out what Harmonica is doing there, and why he plays one, ya gotta catch this movie.

 

get_carter“Get Carter” (1971) – Jack Carter (Michael Caine) is a London mobster who finds out this his brother Frank had died. Carter believes his brother had been murdered and sets out to uncover the truth. As he delves deeper, other mob thugs close in as he finds that his niece was part of an amateur porn film and Frank was killed trying to protect her. Easily one of the most ruthless films ever made, and a great watch.

 

 

death_wish“Death Wish” (1974) – Charles Bronson is architect Paul Kersey. When his wife is Joanna (Hope Lange) is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted by muggers, Paul decides to deliver some vigilante justice. Based on the book by Brian Garfield, the movie spawned 4 sequels and was the inspiration for the movie, “The Brave One” (with Jodie Foster.

 

 

crow“The Crow” (1994) – Rockstar Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his wife are murdered in Detroit on Devil’s Night. A full year later Eric returns to the land of the living, having superhuman strength and invincibility, exacting revenge on the gang who murdered him and his wife. One of the best films that Brandon Lee did was unfortunately his last; a prop gun misfired, killing him.

 

 

braveheart“Braveheart” (1995) – William Wallace was a kid when the English murdered his father and 11 others. He went away and returned, vowing to push the English out of Scotland and earn independence for all Scots. Mel Gibson acted as well as directed this movie, loosely based on the life of the real William Wallace.

 

 

 

desperado“Desperado” (1995) – A sequel to “El Mariachi,” Robert Rodriguez directed the further adventure of a mariachi player with a guitar case full of guns. This time around, Antonio Banderas plays the main character, with Salma Hayek helping him exact revenge on Bucho. “I am looking for a man named Bucho. That’s all. But you had to do it the hard way.”

 

 

payback“Payback” (1999) – Based on the book, “The Hunter,” by Donald E. Westlake, Mel Gibson played Porter, a gangster shot and left for dead by his partner Val (Gregg Henry) and ex-wife Lynn (Deborah Unger). After the bullets are pulled out of his back, Porter is off and looking for his half of the money: $70,000. Blocking his path to the money are crooked cops, the Chinese Triads, and the leader of the Outfit (Kris Kristoferson), whom Val works for. This was originally made in 1967 as “Point Blank,” starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Carroll O’Connor, and John Vernon.

 

memento“Memento” (2000) – What if you were trying to get revenge on the guy who killed your wife and gave you brain damage, but you could only remember what happened for 6-15 minutes at a time before you forgot it? San Fran insurance investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce) finds himself with that problem in an indie film directed by Christopher Nolan. As the films goes from black and white, past to present, you’ll find yourself putting clues together and feeling a lot like Lenny. Also stars Joe Pantaliano

 

kill_bill1“Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2” (2003/2004) – Quentin Tarantino and star Uma Thurman concocted this 2-part movie about The Bride (Thurman), a woman left for dead after her wedding “rehearsal.” Waking up in a hospital 4 years later, she tracks down each of her assassins (fellow members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad), working her way to the master Bill (David Carradine). Fellow Vipers are Vivica Fox, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, and Michael Madsen.

 

bourne_supremacy1“The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) – The sequel to “The Bourne Identity” finds Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) living with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) in Goa, India. When an assassin tries killing Bourne, his girlfriend pays the price and Bourne comes out from hiding. Unfortunately, he’s being framed for crimes he didn’t commit. He now has to clear his name and piece together important fragments of his memory.