With eight books and a slew of video games, the late author Tom Clancy came up with some incredible books (The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, A Clear and Present Danger), but every now and then a writer tends to stumble with a plot device or storyline.
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Best of the best Sr. Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan), is a Navy Seal on a rescue mission with his team in Syria when things go south. Instead of taking out some ISIS bad guys, they blow away Russian operatives instead while extracting a CIA captive. As Kelly and his pals rotate back to the U.S., we have the plots of Commando, Lethal Weapon 2, or Predator when Russian assassins start picking off the Navy Seal team one-by-one. All, that is, except John, who manages to off the killers… except for one who gets away.
Near dead and devasted over the murder of his pregnant wife (Lauren London), he vows revenge as he recovers, but the military has other ideas. John’s boss, Lt. Commander Karen Greer (Jodie Turner-Smith) wants to help, but slime-ball CIA official Robert Ritter (Jaime Bell) says to just drop it and leave it alone because it’s “classified”. But the last thing John is gonna do is leave this alone! After leaving the hospital, John goes rogue and questions Russian diplomat Andre Vaseliev (Merab Ninidze) under, shall we say, unique conditions?
Meanwhile, Sec. of Defense Thomas Clay (Guy Pearce) recognizes John’s plight and, taking him from his prison cell (looks like that questioning went a bit too far), gives John a second chance when he recognizes the Russian man who murdered his wife from a photo line-up. Can you say, “road trip”? John, Karen, and some Black Ops guys wing it over to Russia for the sole purpose of capturing the elusive assassin, Victor Rykov (Brett Gelman), but things go oh-so-very wrong. There are crashes, shoot-outs, impossible escapes, and an ending that makes you say, “Wait, I’ve seen this before!” Indeed you have.
Taylor Sheridan (both Sicario movies) and newbie writer Will Staples adapted Clancy’s book and, when you look at the grand scheme of it, isn’t the gripping, tour-de-force espionage thriller that you’d expected. In fact, the story is rather overused and predictable, so much so, you can guess who the mystery bad guy is from the start. I’ve never read the novel, but sources say this movie strayed away from the book (as most films usually do). One thing this movie does do and that’s introduce the ‘birth’ of John Clark, a pivotal character that frequently teams up with Clancy’s other hero, Jack Ryan. But what the story is lacking in plot originality, it makes up in some decent action pieces, gripping shoot ’em up’s, and first-rate acting.
This movie is really a showcase for dynamic Michael B. Jordan. After flexing his formidable muscles in the Creed franchise, he captured the hearts of fanboys everywhere in Black Panther. Here, Jordan shines once again as the tortured patriot who’ll do anything, illegal or not, to avenge his loving wife. He also values his humanity, willing to risk his own life for others, and if that means ripping off his shirt to show off those jaw-dropping, perfectly formed six-pack abs, well, so be it! But let’s not overlook the wonderful Turner-Smith who plays Kelly’s C.O. and only friend. Plus, if you want someone just dripping with sleaze, Jamie Bell does this without even trying.
**Streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
In the Bourne movies, this second one ranks among the best in the five-film franchise starring the terrific Matt Damon, who starred in four of the five movies. It even spawned a 2019 Amazon Prime series called Treadstone which, unfortunately, nobody even knew about. Oh, well.
His name is Jason Bourne (Damon) and, as the first movie (2002’s The Bourne Identity) told us, he’s a dangerous, highly skilled CIA black ops special agent that is (or was) part of an organization called Operation Treadstone, but he became an assassin/spy under the super-secret Blackbriar program. After recovering slowly from amnesia and then having some of his memory come back, he sought answers. . .along with revenge. In this sequel, Bourne disappeared and went off the grid in India with a new girlfriend, Marie Kruetz (Franka Potente).
Two years later, however, a Russian agent named Kirill (Karl Urban) framed Bourne using his fingerprint on a bomb while stealing some sensitive Russian files and killing some U.S. agents. Assigned to the case is dogged CIA Deputy Director Pamela Lundy (Joan Allen) who wants Bourne, but stumbles onto the secret and classified Treadstone files, headed by Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), Treadstone’s old director. Meanwhile, Kirill needs to finish the job and tries to kill Bourne in India, but manages to only murder Marie. Bad move, there Kirill! ‘Cause now Bourne is on the move to find out who & why he’s being framed.
This eventually leads him to Berlin where Lundy and Abbott are hold up at CIA HQ, along with Bourne’s ex-partner/friend, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). But while trying to connect the dots, Bourne starts getting flashes of an assignment he may have done in Berlin years ago. Could this be a clue to his hidden past? While Bourne is on the move, beating up old Treadstone agents like himself and getting closer to his past, Abbott is getting worried about Bourne discovering his illegal operations and even goes as far as killing off his assistant and framing Bourne for his death!
Finally, Bourne finds the Berlin hotel that drudges up old repressed memories of an assassination he carried out and didn’t want to remember. A botched assignment that Abbott was behind! Armed with new intel, Bourne now stops at nothing to clear his name and then go after the hired gun that killed Marie. Tony Gilroy wrote the Bourne franchise (sometimes with others) and each one was a winner in scope, context, and story, but its director Paul Greengrass that really put the icing on the cake.
Greengrass is noted for his slam-bang, hyper-intense style of filmmaking with the camera, as you can see starting with The Bourne Supremacy, but even more so with The Bourne Ultimatum, where he upped the ante with some of the most amazing fight scenes ever filmed, like the “building-to-building jump”, where the camera actually followed Bourne in ONE TAKE from one window to another! This movie has its share of cool fights as well, as well as Greengrass’s slam-cut edits, which are his trademark. And at the heart of all this is Matt Damon, making this film his own with a 1000-yard death stare, intense acting chops, and a damn fine script to follow.