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The Films of Paul Greengrass


Open Fire

The One That Got Away

The Fix

The Theory of Flight

The Murder of Stephen Lawrence

Bloody Sunday

The Bourne Supremacy (August 11/12)

A minor step above the entertaining (yet underwhelming) The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy follows Matt Damon's Jason Bourne as he's forced to come out of hiding after he's framed for murder - with the film, as expected, detailing Bourne's efforts at both clearing his name and digging up information about his past. There's little doubt that The Bourne Supremacy is instantly more involving and more engrossing than its predecessor, as filmmaker Paul Greengrass, working from a script by Tony Gilroy, opens the proceedings with a riveting chase sequence that's effectively sets the stage for a propulsive thriller - with the movie's high-octane elements heightened by Damon's charismatic and increasingly compelling turn as the title character. It's worth noting, too, that the movie's quieter interludes, ie the stuff within the CIA, fares better than anticipated, as such moments have been infused with a palpably tense feel that does, for the most part, prove impossible to resist. And although the movie admittedly begins to run out of steam as it passes the one-hour mark, something that's especially true of a prolonged stretch set in Russia, The Bourne Supremacy recovers for an impressively strong finish that confirms its place as a superior sequel. (It's a shame about Greengrass' reliance on excessively jittery camerawork, though.)

out of

United 93

The Bourne Ultimatum (August 5/07)

It's certainly worth noting that The Bourne Ultimatum - hot on the heels of such underwhelming actioners as Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers - comes off as nothing less than a breath of fresh air, and while Paul Greengrass' expectedly kinetic camerawork occasionally borders on distracting, the film is generally one of the most exciting and thoroughly compelling thrillers to emerge in quite some time. The bare-bones storyline - which follows Matt Damon's Jason Bourne as he continues to unlock clues surrounding his identity - is essentially just a springboard for a series of genuinely thrilling action sequences, with a pursuit through a busy train station and a chase on Moroccan rooftops the film's obvious highlights (a climactic car chase is rendered almost unintelligible by Greengrass' jittery shenanigans). Damon continues to be the series' most potent weapon, as the actor effectively sustains the viewer's interest even through the movie's sporadically confusing expository passages. And although the structure employed by screenwriters Tony Gilroy and George Nolfi does become awfully repetitive - ie Bourne tracks down a lead and travels to a new country, where he must subsequently escape the clutches of the CIA - there's little doubt that The Bourne Ultimatum's positive attributes (of which there are many) effortlessly outweigh its few negatives.

out of

Green Zone (August 4/10)

Frustratingly uneven, Green Zone follows an American soldier (Matt Damon's Roy Miller) as he attempts to expose a cover-up relating to the search of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq - with his efforts consistently stymied by a host of outside factors (including Greg Kinnear's smarmy Clark Poundstone and Jason Isaacs' tough-as-nails Briggs). There's little doubt that Green Zone gets off to a near disastrous start, as screenwriter Brian Helgeland's decision to emphasize the political aspects of the story holds the viewer at arm's length for much of the film's opening half hour - with the decidedly far-from-enthralling atmosphere persisting right up until Miller's raid on a suspected terrorist's house. It's a riveting and thoroughly exciting sequence that effectively sets the stage for an unexpectedly compelling midsection, and there's little doubt that Damon's impressively authentic performance - ie he really does come off as world-weary, grizzled soldier - plays a substantial role in the film's admittedly abrupt turnabout. Unfortunately, Green Zone demonstrably runs out of steam as it heads into its final stretch - as Greengrass blankets the proceedings in a pervasive darkness that's exacerbated by his notoriously jittery directorial style. The suspense that Greengrass is clearly attempting to generate during the film's third act is consequently non-existent, and it's ultimately difficult to recall a contemporary action flick that wears out its welcome as firmly and as disappointingly as Green Zone.

out of

Captain Phillips (November 13/13)

Directed by Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips follows the crew of an American cargo ship, led by Tom Hanks' Richard Phillips, as they're forced to contend with the advances of several vicious pirates (including Barkhad Abdi's Muse and Barkhad Abdirahman's Bilal). It's a fascinating true-life tale that's employed to consistently engrossing and sporadically electrifying effect by filmmaker Paul Greengrass, as the director, working from Billy Ray's screenplay, does a superb job of initially drawing the viewer into the deliberately-paced proceedings - with the movie's intriguing atmosphere heightened by Hanks' typically engaging turn as the no-nonsense protagonist. There's little doubt that Captain Phillips benefits substantially from the inclusion of several unexpectedly captivating sequences, with, for example, the pirates' initial approach far more suspenseful and tense than one might've anticipated (ie this portion outdoes most contemporary actioners in terms of genuine thrills). And although the movie loses some momentum in its slightly overlong midsection, Captain Phillips bounces back with an absolutely enthralling third act that's rife with nail-biting, white-knuckle moments - with Hanks' increasingly mesmerizing performance going a long way towards elevating the emotional impact of the film's final stretch. The movie's success ultimately secures Greengrass' place as a master of this sort of thing (Green Zone notwithstanding), and it's difficult to easily recall a more affecting (and effective) mainstream Hollywood thriller that's been unabashedly geared towards older viewers.

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Jason Bourne (August 11/16)

The weakest of the Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass Bourne movies (but an improvement over The Bourne Legacy), Jason Bourne follows Damon's title character as he's drawn out of hiding by Julia Stiles' Nicky Parsons and eventually sent on a pursuit that leads him directly to the head of the CIA (Tommy Lee Jones' Robert Dewey). It's clear that Jason Bourne benefits substantially from a propulsive first half that boasts several compelling action sequences, while director Greengrass, working from a screenplay cowritten with Christopher Rouse, does a good job of reintroducing Damon's grizzled character and his now solitary, hardscrabble existence - with the rather engrossing atmosphere initially compensating for Greengrass' regrettable penchant for shaky camerawork. There's little doubt, however, that Jason Bourne's engaging vibe begins to dwindle steadily in its midsection, as the narrative is increasingly bogged down in padded-out sequences and needless, time-wasting subplots - with the most obvious example of the latter everything involving Riz Ahmed's tech CEO Aaron Kalloor (ie virtually every scene dealing with this character could have been airlifted out of the picture without doing much damage). It's consequently not surprising to note that the third act seriously drags and isn't nearly as exciting as Greengrass has intended, with the larger-than-life (and far-too-long) Las Vegas car chase that closes the proceedings ensuring that Jason Bourne ends on a decidedly anticlimactic note - which is a shame, really, given the massive potential afforded by the film's striking opening stretch.

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© David Nusair