Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Hayden Christensen ………. David Rice
Samuel L. Jackson ………. Roland
Diane Lane ………. Mary Rice
Jamie Bell ………. Griffin
Rachel Bilson ………. Millie
Michael Rooker ………. William Rice
Using a hand held camera is a risky proposition. Use it correctly, which is to say you keep the shaking to a modicum and let the action dictate the proceedings and you get a film like The Bourne Ultimatum or The Kingdom. Shaky, perhaps, but it adds to the intensity. Use it indiscriminately and you get a film like the Rob Zombie remake of Halloween, where anytime the going gets good the camera acts as if the person behind it is in the middle of a seizure. You can add Jumper to that list, as Doug Liman seemingly has a fit whenever the film gets interesting. Given the film’s lack of a true finale and poor development, good camerawork would seem essential. Alas, it isn’t.
Jumper revolves around the microcosm of a war between two sides: “Jumpers,” who have the ability to teleport to any place they’ve seen, and “Paladins” who are sworn to kill them. When David Rice (Hayden Christiansen) discovers his ability to jump at an early age, he gets pulled into the war when his life of bank-robbing and high flying is discovered by a zealous Paladin by the name of Roland (Samuel L. Jackson). As he tries to reunite with his childhood sweetheart Millie (Rachel Bilson), Rice finds himself with an erstwhile ally (Jamie Bell) and Roland on his trail wherever he goes. It has the setup for a great comic book style action flick, and was based off an award-winning novel of the same name. The problem is that the film is light on substance and heavy on style, much to its detriment.
Liman is known for creating atmosphere, and Jumper is filled with it. This is the sort of hip, edgy world he’s created before for other films and stylistically it compares a lot to Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Liman seemingly has two sets of styles. His first is for a film like Go, which has a much steadier camera and is more about the characters. There’s uniqueness in the color and not a lot of wide camera shots. It’s for the sort of art-house cinema he made his name on. His second is more mainstream friendly and has a lot of long, tracking shots with color contrasts. Jumper falls into the second, with a lot of scenic shots taking the place of solid character development. For a guy who brought the cult classic Swingers to the screen and developed arguably the best of the Bourne series to the screen, this is lacking his usual sort of finesse. The film has a terrific look and feel to it, but that’s all it has.
And the big problem begins whenever things gets interesting. Liman uses the “shaky camera” effect to destroy so many good shots of his scenes, as well as make it demonstrably confusing, that the film goes from being salvageable to a painful 90 minutes. It’s decidedly amateurish in how it looks and takes away from the film; a steadier shot would at least give it a shot at being a decent film. Unfortunately it’s only the beginning of the badness that is this film.
Jumper doesn’t have a lot of substance to it, as it’s particularly light when it comes to developing any of the characters. It feels like a good warm up to an extended mini-series for FX as opposed to a major motion picture. This is a painfully awkward script when it comes to developing characters, etc. There’s no reason to care about anyone except for their designated roles in the film’s plot; they’re two dimensional at best. It makes for a boring viewing, at best. It could be more if there was a terrific performance in there, but even Samuel L Jackson doesn’t seem to want to bring his best to the table. Waiting during the film, one seems to think that the loud angry star would come out and make the film delightful to watch in a hammy sort of way. Jackson seems subdued in a way an action movie villain shouldn’t be, especially in a film like this. One keeps hoping for Jackson to channel the sort of creative insanity that makes John Travolta a fun action villain; it never comes and the film never turns the corner because of it.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):