Jason Bourne (2016, Paul Greengrass)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

Why there’s another Bourne movie I don’t know. This one hits all the marks you’d expect: Bourne is mad at the CIA and is taking some kind of action, there’s someone on inside helping him out (actually 2 people, but whatever). The cast is too good for the material, as is usual with these films, and Greengrass does a good job with a plot that gets dumber and dumber as it goes on. SPOILERS! Read More

Bridge of Spies (2015, Steven Spielberg)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I struggle with so many of Spielberg’s film because, even though he is very good at many things, he can rarely trust his audience, to treat them as adults. This is the rare Spielberg film that doesn’t feel second-guessed, that doesn’t feel like Spielberg had a freak-out about whether or not his audience would feel down at the end, and I guess that’s because of the source material (“punched up” by the Coens, which doesn’t hurt). A true story with a happy ending is perhaps more up his alley than a story – true or otherwise – where he feels Read More

Spectre (2015, Sam Mendes)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

Watching a James Bond on a plane is probably not the greatest idea. Alas, I did. The return to pseudo-realism that Casino Royale supposedly heralded seems to have completely gone for the later Craig Bond films. Spectre is as go-for-broke spectacle as Skyfall though it is, on the most part, less absurdly epic. The rest of the film feels vaguely in the vein of the recent Mission Impossible (I can’t remember which one) where everyone has turned on our hero (and, in this case, heroes). Some of the stunts work well, some are too ridiculous. As with all Bond villain Read More

L’affaire Farewell (2009, Christian Carion)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is an interesting attempt at making a “real” spy movie, one where the spies behave like real spies, without car chases, without shoot-outs, without super-intense interrogation scenes. For the most part it works, but there are enough problems with the finished product that I can’t quite recommend it. Like Argo, it takes liberties with the truth but unlike Argo, it is not quite suspenseful enough. I bring up Argo only because I think it serves as a good comparison of a more successful film of a similar type. The biggest problem with this film, I think, is that it’s Read More

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011, Tomas Alfredson)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

For a while I have wanted to watch first the original version of this and then the remake. However, I lost my American netflix awhile ago and haven’t yet got it back. And I stupidly gave in and watched the remake first. I say ‘stupidly’ because this is an idiosyncratic thriller and I may have appreciated one or both better seeing a more conventional approach first. (But, then again, maybe not.) I love the slow burn of this – so little is revealed in the film so slowly. I can imagine how confused and infuriated many people must be while Read More

Safe House (2012, Daniel Espinosa)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a confused spy thriller with a rather ridiculous amount of violence. So I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s not sure whether it’s a spy movie, an action movie or a car chase movie. It tries for all three (and more). And then, in the denouement, it somehow tries to link itself to WikiLeaks as if it was all part of something nobler. It’s basically a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, though the performances are all solid enough I couldn’t give it a 3 for its silly, silly double cross plot. 4/10 Read More

Argo (2012, Ben Affleck)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

I have generally had an issue with Affleck as a director, at least with his first movie. I felt like he almost hindered the strong material. But I don’t feel that way here. Though this is a by-the-numbers spy procedural, and Affleck doesn’t bring anything new to the style, he executes it near-perfectly. Obviously, the big problem with the film is that it’s not entirely historically accurate. A number of people who lived through the incident have complained about who did what, and about the casting. I think, though, that such criticism misses the point. The historical inaccuracies are mostly Read More

Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Kathryn Bigelow)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Much like Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, this is a film that, at least in part, seems to aim to tell the “human” story – or the “ground truth” – of a particular conflict the US is involved in. In this case though, it’s obvious something of a little more import. Anyway, it reminds me a lot of Blackhawk Down, a film similarly unconcerned with the “why” and pretty much solely concerned with the “how”. In that, it’s pretty successful: it’s dramatic, tense, thrilling, and you absolutely have to watch the whole thing, even though you know how it’s going to Read More

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014, Kenneth Branagh)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

This seems to me to be an attempt at making an older style of spy movie, and when I say older I mean of the original “Jack Ryan” type – like a Hunt for the Red October or Patriot Games. I say that because the twist that you know is coming – that comes in practically every one of these (Hollywood) spy movies made in last decade or so, never comes. And that is a wonderful thing. The problem is that the movie itself really isn’t very captivating – particularly, the relationship between Pine’s and Knightley’s characters is kind of Read More

Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is, on the whole, a decent Bond film in line with the other Craig-entries, which are all at least slightly more realistic than the Moore and Brosnan versions. It does get a little carried way with the “technology” angle, where computers – and especially computer code – are made to look like things they are not. The other odd aspect of the film is how referential it is; is this the most referential bond movie ever? I’m not sure that’s a drawback in this film, because it’s secondary, but it’s a little odd nonetheless. The climax is, for the Read More

Hanna (2011, Joe Wright)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I think like there is something here that merits attention; it’s not just the cast, though the cast as way better than it should be for a movie like this. I’m not really sure what it is exactly; it may have something to do with the script which is definitely significantly better than your average action / spy movie. But there are a couple of really annoying things about this movie that won’t let me think more about whatever the positives might be: specifically the soundtrack, which is intrusive and ridiculous, and a few odd directorial decisions including a bizarre Read More

The Numbers Station (2013, Kasper Barfoed)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is a s strange one and it is sort of hard to decide what exactly they were going for. I think, at some level, they were trying to attempt a sort of underground submarine-movie-type claustrophobia but it doesn’t work. There are some pretty major problems: Cusack’s character is hard to relate to and Akerman does not play genius well, but the bigger issue is the direction and set design, which tries to create a mood and never ever succeeds. (It goes so far to create a mood that it gives us the kind of hospital lightning that we would Read More

Killer Elite (2011, Gary McKendry)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

For the first two thirds of this – not to be confused with Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite – it is actually a shockingly strong spy thriller with way-too-good-for-a-spy-actioner acting from just about everybody, save Statham, of course, who plays his usual self. Unfortunately things go way off off the rails when the movie isn’t content to leave loose ends un-wrapped, so instead the movie has a second climax and then a third. I’m sure the problem is at least in part with the source material: there are too many plot twists and the things that are appealing – the humanness Read More

Billion Dollar Brain (1967, Ken Russell)

Categories: 1967 and Movies.

This is a strange one. I have only seen one other Harry Palmer movie and it definitely didn’t prepare me for this, though I guess the title should have. The film – and, presumably, the novel – suffers from the kind of nonsense ’60s spy tech-nonsense that dates so many James Bond movies. Harry Palmer is usually the anti-Bond, but here his plot is caught up in super computers and a bizarre climactic set-piece that has to be seen to be believed. This is my first Ken Russell, and I would be tempted to trace the oddness of this film Read More

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (211, Brad Bird)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

I haven’t seen the third and I have to say I feel like I missed a little something, but anyway. The biggest problem with this movie is that every time they stumble upon a good set piece (using a song to time a prison escape, having a fight in the most futuristic parking garage ever) they take it way too far. They stretch believability, tear apart believability, and then light the pieces on fire afterwards. Take out the film’s most absurd moments, and it actually is a pretty decent action film: there is a real emphasis on the humanness of Read More

TIFF 2012 Wrap Up

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

Here is my roundup for TIFF 2012. I managed to see 13 films this year, which is better than last year. Many of them managed to be documentaries, which Monique attributes to our constant attendance at the Bloor over the summer (I guess, subconsciously, we have become documentary people). I didn’t see a film that wholly blew me away, though I saw two that did at times. I think we did pretty well avoiding duds as I only saw one bad movie (which I overrated because I agree with the argument) and that’s pretty good, compared to some previous years. The reviews Read More

The Bourne Legacy (2012, Tony Gilroy)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

I’m torn. On the one hand we have a film that features excellent car chases and excellent CGI-less stunts and, on a completely different note, a fantastic understanding of bureaucracy (even if such bureaucracy doesn’t actually exist) which adds a great deal of realism to a story that isn’t realistic. The acting is also believable on all accounts. On the other hand, the story is an absolute mess, and the filmmakers rely way too much on the previous film in the series for their ideas and for the film itself (which is, of course, the bigger problem; especially if, like Read More

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Paul Greengrass)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is definitely the least effective for the series to date. It has a strong sense of “we’ve seen this before” and the excessive use of flashbacks (including both new and old footage) doesn’t help that at all. There is an absolutely awesome car chase in the middle, but much of the rest of it feels rehashed from the first two. Some of this is undoubtedly the fault of the source material (once you’ve read one Ludlum you’ve probably read them all) but I feel like a little more could have been done to make some kind of new step Read More