Tag Archives: Vincent Cassel

Jason Bourne (2016)

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He’s back!

No, not poor Jeremy Renner, but the original and still the best: Matt Damon. And of course, nearly just as important, director Paul Greengrass (who helmed the second and third films in the franchise, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum). The dynamic duo said they probably weren’t going to make it and they didn’t need to make it, but they made it anyway ($$$). And so we have Jason Bourne.

This time, the eponymous protagonist (Damon) stumbles onto a secret about his forgotten past thanks to former CIA agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and is forced back into the game he tried to leave behind. Pursuing him this time is new agency hotshot Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and head honcho Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), with a super assassin (Vincent Cassel) thrown in for the fun of it. It’s more or less the same type of film as its predecessors, with tense spy sequences, loads of destructive action, chase scenes, and gritty, brutal close-rang combat. Everyone’s get a secret agenda and it’s up to Bourne to find out what the heck is going on, or at least beat the crap out of everyone trying to do it.

To be honest, I’ve never been a super big fan of the Bourne series. I’ve watched all of them and enjoyed them to varying degrees, but this is not a franchise that gets me particularly excited, and I tend to forget about them pretty quickly after I walk out of the cinema. I only had a vague recollection of the history of the character and this latest entry didn’t do a whole lot to jog my memory. That said, Jason Bourne is solid entertainment. Damon and Greengrass are just too good for this cash grab film to suck.

For starters, there’s the action. There are some really fantastic set pieces throughout the film, including a chaotic, super-intense riot sequence at the beginning that hooks you right into Jason Bourne’s world. There’s also a wild car sequence at the end and some bone-crunching hand-to-hand fight scenes that kept me at the edge of my seat . Greengrass shows that great action isn’t simply about loud noises and blowing things up, but through use of smart camera angles, timely cuts and measured pacing.

Then there’s Matt Damon, who is, as usual, wonderful. It has been said that he has something like 20-30 lines throughout the entire movie, though I wouldn’t have noticed had you not told me. He simply embodies the character of Jason Bourne through his demeanour and mannerisms. His resting badass face, his strut — everything he does in this film tells you he knows exactly who the character is.

The rest of the cast is solid too. Vikander, despite a shaky attempt at an American accent, delivers a multi-faceted character who can seem vulnerable one second and frightening the next. Tommy Lee Jones, whose face resembles a rubbery Halloween mask of Tommy Lee Jones’ old face at this stage, lends his gravitas to the role of nasty government official, while Vincent Cassel offers a nice contrast to Bourne by being a different kind of assassin — slick, sinewy and calculated — but just as deadly. Special shout out to Riz Ahmed as a tech billionaire with a pivotal role in the film. There’s not a whole lot of screen time, but Ahmed nails every scene he’s in. Seeing how different he is in this film compared to his role in the HBO series The Night Of (a must-watch, by the way) tells me he’s bound for bigger and greater things in his future (he already has Rogue One coming up at the end of the year).

Having said all those good things, I don’t think Jason Bourne is by any means a modern action masterpiece or anything like that. When you break it down, there’s not much of a plot, and no one will be surprised when the central mystery of the film is finally revealed. Ultimately, it’s nothing we haven’t really seen before, and Greengrass seems to be content sticking with what has worked in the past. As a result, Jason Bourne does come across as just another typical entry in the series as opposed to a standout, and as I said earlier in this review, I’ve never been a massive fan of the franchise. However, even an average Bourne film is better than the majority of other action flicks out there, and I appreciate how well it is acted and executed. It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Trance (2013)

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I had heard lots of amazing things about Danny Boyle’s latest film, Trance, months before it hit my local cinema. Judging from the title, I suspected it was about hypnotism, a subject that feels strangely under-targeted by Hollywood, though I wasn’t sure that’s what it was about because I avoided the trailers religiously.

Well, I was right about the hypnotism slant, though I must admit I was a little disappointed in the end despite everything Trance had to offer, most probably because I had been expecting too much after just everyone called the film “amazing.”

James McAvoy plays a guy called Simon, who works as security at auctions for high-priced artworks. A robbery, naturally, takes place, and Simon is forced by the robbers (headed by Mr Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel) to work with a hypnotist played by Rosario Dawson to retrieve his memory. It sounds simple enough, but as you would expect, Trance is full of twists and turns that will keep the audience guessing. What is real? Who is manipulating? Who is being manipulated? Just what the heck is really going on?

The mystery is the driving force of the film and kept me fascinated for the perfect 101-minute running time, but the revelations that are slowly delivered to the viewer, piece by piece, didn’t “wow” me as much as I thought they would. It was clever but not that clever — at least not clever enough to the point that it would astonish most viewers (or at least I think).  There was ambiguity to allow interpretation but the room for the imagination to roam was more limited than films like say Inception or Shutter Island.

That said, the film was still exciting (especially the first half — it began to sag in the second act), intriguing because of its subject matter, and powered by excellent performances from a strong cast. I wouldn’t have paired McAvoy with Dawson myself, but the casting somehow worked. And Cassell is of course excellent as a sleazy criminal, the kind of role he could play with minimal effort. I would have liked to have cared more for the characters, especially McAvoy’s and Dawson’s, but I suppose that is more the fault of the script than the actors.

Danny Boyle’s stylish direction and a ripping soundtrack also elevate Trance above your average psychological (not to mention sexually charged) thriller, but it falls short of becoming a classic or even one of the more memorable films of the genre in recent years.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Black Swan (2010)

I find it strange that director Darren Aronofsky calls Black Swan a ‘companion piece’ to his 2008 film The Wrestler (probably my favourite film of that year) because while they are both excellent, they are completely different films.

This one is about a New York ballet production of Swan Lake and the rivalry and obsession between two dancers (played by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) that spirals into deadly madness.

I’ve been a fan of Portman since Leon (or The Professional), and this is perhaps her best performance.  It didn’t surprise me that she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and is the heavy favourite at the Oscars.  The supporting cast was also terrific, in particular Barbara Hershey as the frighteningly overbearing mother.  Vincent Cassel’s sleazy ballet director and Winona Ryder’s ageing dancer were also solid.

Unlike The Wrestler, which is a moving drama, Black Swan is as dark and disturbing a psychological thriller I’ve ever come across.  At times it plays out like a horror film, making the audience squirm in their seats and challenging us not to look away.  It’s a beautiful, atmospheric, chilling, masterfully directed film that kept me at the edge of my seat, even though for much of the 108-minute running time I was struggling to put the pieces together.

As Nate from TheNinthDragonKing said, the movie is at times reminiscent of David Lynch’s wonderful but hugely frustrating Mulholland Drive — except in my opinion Black Swan is less confusing and has an ending that doesn’t disappoint.

4.25 stars out of 5

DVD Review: Eastern Promises (2007)

I had been wanting to watch Eastern Promises since it was first released in 2007 but never got around to it until now.  Directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) and starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl, Eastern Promises is a brutal, uncompromising story about a British mid-wife (Watts) who becomes involved with the Russian mafia after coming across the diary of a young girl.

It’s an incredibly dark film that has won acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the Russian mafia in the UK, right down to the tattoos their bodies are covered with.  The film was nominated for three Golden Globes (including Best Picture — Drama), and Viggo was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (but lost it to Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood).

Eastern Promises is not an easy film to watch.  It’s hard to call it “enjoyable” because of how deeply depressing and violent it is, not to mention the mumbling (though apparently incredibly accurate) Russian accents.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be engrossed in the film because it kept taking me deeper and deeper into this frightening world, and there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns that kept me on my toes, uncertain as to what might happen next.  Thanks to Cronenberg, there is also this creepy, unsettling tone underlying the entire film.

Of course, there is the one scene that everyone talks about which I won’t spoil, but it’s an absolutely remarkable piece of visceral cinematic brilliance.

And you can’t appraise this film without talking about Viggo Mortensen’s performance.  It’s hard to believe watching this man on screen that he was once Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, or the loving father from The Road.  He’s an insanely good actor and in any other year he probably would have won the Oscar for his portrayal of Nikolai, the family’s “driver”.

4 out of 5 stars!