Jason Bourne

Director: Paul Greengrass (2016) BBFC cert 12A

Matt Damon returns to the action treadmill for a fourth outing as the amnesiac assassin in this flat fifth episode of the franchise.

He was already an Oscar winning star when he powered 2002’s The Bourne Identity to usher in a new wave of inventively violent thrillers grounded in the real world.

Here references to whistleblower Edward Snowden and wikileaks sit beside a social media entrepreneur and European democratic protests.

The impact on cinema was to invigorate the competition and in 2006 Daniel Craig duly wowed the world as a gritty James Bond in Casino Royale.

So it’s curious at a time when Craig is supposedly stepping out of 007’s tux, the 45 year old Damon is jumping back into the fray.

He’s in tremendous physical shape and grimly charismatic but there is a sense of what was once the future is now past its best.

The plot reheats the familiar routine of global games of violent cat and mouse. Tommy Lee Jones is the grizzled new CIA director wanting Bourne dead and Alicia Vikander is his ambitious analyst who has murky motives for helping our hero. There’s even a new black ops programme named Ironhand in the works.

Fundamentally the story is of the CIA engaging a huge amount of time and resources to pursue a vendetta against its own former operatives in order to protect what we must laughably call its good name.

This leaves the audience as bemused bystanders to a purely internal affair with no investment in the outcome.

There is no sex, romance, drugs, booze or even coffee in the life of the humourless and puritan patriot, making Bourne difficult to root for.

Previously uncovered secrets of Bourne’s personal history are uncovered to jumpstart the plot. It’s a desperate move reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s Deathwish (1974-1994) series which went to increasingly ludicrous lengths to find new family and friends to sacrifice in order the vigilante could once more shoot bad guys with impunity.

Greengrass gives the action some impact and the stunt crew earn their bonus. Athens stages a brilliant riot but by the time Bourne is gambling his life on the streets of Las Vegas, I’d forgotten why I ever cared.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

Tale Of Tales

Director: Matteo Garrone (2016)

Full of deliciously dark deeds and black comic moments, this fabulously grotesque fairytale is definitely not one for the kids.

In the grand tradition of European folk stories it’s a moral foray through a murky forest of avarice, gluttony, madness, magic and death.

With a minimal of dialogue its entwining stories are expertly twisted together by a marvellous mix of strong performances, stunning costume design, incredible locations and beautiful cinematography.

The loosely connected stories of three medieval monarchs begin with Salma Hayek’s Queen who is longing for a child.

A cloaked figure guarantees her a child but warns of a potentially lethal price. The Queen’s husband must kill a sea monster and its heart must be cooked by a virgin and then eaten by the Queen.

Dishonesty causes repercussions which pass down the years.

Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s debauched king courts a singing maiden without having seen her face. Toby Jones is a wonderfully distracted king who organises a tournament to find a prince to marry his daughter.

Ogres, giant fleas, leeches,  jugglers, fire eaters, dwarves and a fat lady add flavour to this witches brew of story telling. A circus troupe adds a layer of theatricality and make believe to the mythic environment.

Roccascalegna castle is one of several perfectly chosen examples of Italian architecture which anchor the extraordinary events in our imagination.

None of the royal plans ends in the way they or us expect as they discover lies and self interest have severe and deserved consequences.

The final shot is a breathtakingly beautiful comment on the frailty and difficulty of life, offering a degree of compassion to those who have suffered through their own weakness.

@ChrisHunneysett