Thursday, December 22, 2016

Film Pairing — Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head about the Government

There is no consolation in this double bill, two films that express what many of us feel — the government is trying to protect us from those who would take our liberties by taking our liberties. Secrets, double crosses come easy to the alphabet agencies in these two films, which do little to dispel our cynicism but a lot to increase our heart rate and blood pressure.  Try these two for an escape into a dark, but sadly believable reality. It’s all about the hunt and the chase, and whom we can trust.

Safe House — Filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, a spy suspected of corruption is captured and temporarily placed in a “safe house,” where it is virtually impossible to escape or be found.  Except that he was found. Another faction was sent in to free or kill him. The highly prized target, a veteran spy played by Denzel Washington, and a low-level, inexperienced intelligence agent, Ryan Reynolds, find themselves dependent on each other for survival. It seems that two factions of the agency are at odds with each other, but both out to get Washington and Reynolds. This may be the darker and deeper of the two spy films, though the chases are not quite as extravagant. Daniel Espinosa directed Safe House, released in 2012. Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepard do their usual fine jobs in supporting roles.

Jason Bourne —This is the fifth, and if they keep their promise, the last of the Bourne series.  Matt Damon returns for this 2016 release. I’ve liked all the Bourne films, including this one, accepting them as well-done action films with just enough plot and barely enough character to keep me in my chair.  The plot is essentially the same.  Get the all-too clever and resourceful Bourne and kill him. In this case I particularly liked the appropriately understated end. Tommy Lee Jones did his usual solid job, this time as the CIA chief. Alicia Vikander was cool and beautiful, but the writers didn't give her a whole lot to work with. The movie was directed by Paul Greengrass based on “characters created by Robert Ludlum," and set primarily Washington DC and Las Vegas.

Relevant, though perhaps not profoundly so, the films address our fears about trusting a government that keeps so much from us — operations that can be twisted at various levels of the intelligence bureaucracy and by the currently ruling corporate class. Given a chance, the films could lead to an intelligent discussion about how we can get more accountability and transparency from our elected representatives, cabinet appointees and commanders in chief.  More than likely though, we will settle in for a few hours of vicarious thrills with two moderately thrilling, competently made entertainment products, knowing that the Bourne film, for example, brought in more than $400 million at the box office in a year that saw the scariest election of the modern era and a new cabinet of generals and billionaire CEOs, stuff from which such movies gain inspiration.

This isn’t a wine, or even a beer night. For those who want some sort of tranquilizing accompaniment, I’d go for Scotch or Bourbon. Sip though, or the Bourne movie will zip by you much quicker than you can comprehend it, not that this is a serious detriment.  For the alcohol free, maybe a coffee of some sort to keep you buzzed and up to speed for all the chases.

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