Alien starships arrive and hover over the major cities, like in V: The Series . Then they start their attacks. The first wave is an EMP, which makes planes drop out of the sky like in Revolution . The second wave is more literal, a massive tsunami like in Deep Impact . The third wave is an outbreak of disease. The fourth wave is a bunch of hillbillies with hunting rifles.
Finally the US Army arrives on the scene, led by a Colonel (Liev Schreiber - Scream ) and Sergeant ( Maria Bello ). It turns out they are building an army of child soldiers to fight the Fifth Wave of the alien invasion. Anyone who has seen the film Oblivion will be a bit cynical about this whole series of events.
Naturally, when our hero discovers the dark side of his Utopia he rebels against the system. In this case the grown-ups are his Mother ( Katie Holmes ), Father (Alexander Saarsgard - True Blood ) and the community's Matriarch Meryl Streep .
Our heroes are hunted by the Trench Coat Mafia - they have tattoos, they are the least subtle villains since Charmed . Their leader is Joshua from Dark Angel ! Speaking of that show, there is also a mysterious Buffy-lookalike, Faith-acting motorbike chick ( Eliza Taylor ) ...
The result is predictable enough. But if you know what to expect, you have no right to complain.
Katniss ( Jennifer Lawrence ) lives in poverty, in a rural district where food is scarce. This is in contrast to the country's Capital, which is Nouveau Georgian in style - all powdered wigs and face-paint (and that is just the men)! Capital controls the districts through their food supply; So where is the food actually created if not in the rural districts?
The Great Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) and his minions - Wes Bently ( Underworld 3 ), Stanley Tucci ( The Core ) and Toby Jones ( Your Highness ) can manipulate the games. The Dome is fitted with hard-light hologram projectors that can create a forest-fire or a horde of man-eating hounds. Unfortunately, despite this massive Holodeck (a dome several miles in diameter) they cannot be bothered to build food replicators to feed the starving. Yes, they may have circuses but not bread.
The result is a mediocre effort. The cast is incredible, but that is because there was a huge budget. The problem is that the action scenes, the real core of the film, are ruined by shaky-cam.
We get to meet some of the other survivors of previous games. Some of them are potential allies, while others may become arch-rivals. Johanna ( Jenna Malone ) is near breaking point. Jeffrey Wright ( Casino Royale ) is a brainiac. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ) is still around to give Katniss advice. His scene at the end sets up the next film.
It is nice to see action scenes that are not ruined by shaky-cam. Also, as Big Government cracks down on the rural poor we get a lot more of the political background to the series. The first movie was about survival, while this is more about resistance.
Katniss spends most of the film in an underground bunker. There is a single action scene she is part of, where she uses a single arrow to shoot down TWO enemy fighter-bombers. Apart from that, the film relies mainly on suspense and tension as she watches other people take all the risks. As a result, some viewers feel that splitting the book was a mistake - presumably most of the action-adventure stuff happens in the second half. Some people regard this as being too thought-provoking and not explosive enough.
District 13 have been stockpiling weapons, although these are presumably out-of-date compared to the Capital’s next-generation weaponry. However, the tactics employed by both sides seem unusually wasteful of manpower.
The Capital is a massive mega-city with a holodeck several miles in diameter. This is powered by a hydro-electric power plant similar to the Hoover Dam. So what on earth do they need ten thousand hillbillies to mine coal for? And for every ten miners there are five guards to act as slave-drivers. This is a terrible waste of resources!
District 13 has weaponry and trained soldiers, but they do not distribute them to the local Resistance movements like the SOE did in World War Two. Instead they rely on the revolting peasants to use human wave tactics, losing so many civilians that the villains run out of ammunition. So is District 13 any better than the Capital in terms of wasting human life?
The Presidential Dictator (Canadian actor Donald Sutherland - Don't look Now ) uses his minion Robert Knepper (Prison Break) as a scapegoat for military failures. Then he gets the games-makers to weaponise their forcefield technology. Instead of repairing the mile-wide holodeck they create hundreds of replicators that function as boobytraps, creating deadly flame or oil to kill the approaching rebels.
Katniss also has personal problems. Both her love interests are included in the propaganda team. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson - Bridge to Terabithia ) has been brainwashed by the villains, and Gaela (Chris Hemsworth - Expendables 2 ) is now too deeply integrated with the District 13 mindset for comfort.
The gamesmaster, Philip Seymour Hoffman ( Mission Impossible 3 ) is missing from a couple of key scenes because the actor died during production. His loss is keenly felt, even though the film papers over his absence.
Our heroine is Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), raised as a public servant, chooses Dauntless. She does not have the physical fitness necessary, and the necessary character traits are not established so it all seems out of character. I mean, Katniss in Hunger Games was established as a bow-hunter, but this girl is never shown as having an interest in free-running.
There is another problem with her leaving her home Faction. You can choose a new Faction, but they do not have to choose you. The bottom 35% of testees are dropped, and since they cannot return home they become Factionless. They will be excluded from citizenship and all the creature comforts, but are still allowed to live in the city (as homeless scroungers in cardboard boxes). Now, this means that there are three times as many of them than of any single faction! That said, there are always the suicides and the selective murders.
Kate Winslet , leader of the snobs, decides to launch a Coup D'Etat against the city leader, the head of the Public Servants - Ray Stevenson ( Punisher: War Zone ). His associates, including Katniss' mother ( Ashley Judd ) are all marked for death. Can Katniss and her friends save the day?
The story has an open ending, because there are two more books in the series. Like Captain America 2 (which was released at the same time) it is PG-13, so the action is CGI violence - there are no realistic injuries. Of course, this effort has a much more simplistic plot, but that is really where the differences end.
The English BF discovers that his mother ( Naomi Watts ) has disguised herself by becoming a brunette and looking ten years younger. She faked her death, and is now the secret leader of the Casteless Untouchables. She plans a violent rebellion against the ruling clique, so she is the perfect ally. However, her son (who has had minimal contact with her for over a decade) condemns her as completely untrustworthy. How can he be so certain? And more importantly, is he correct?
The teenage heroes must infiltrate the villains' HQ and overthrow the evil regime. No surprises there.
The English BF's mother Evelyn ( Naomi Watts ) has her own agenda. She kills anyone who does not do what she says. She starts with Kate Winslet's followers, but then goes on to kill Joan's followers as well.
Tris ( Shailene Woodbury ), her English BF and her brother make a break for freedom. Miles Teller ( Fastastic Four ) tags along, despite having double-crossed Tris (and been forgiven by her) in both the previous two movies. They discover a utopia ruled by ... However, Tris is paranoid about things that are too good to be true. After all, we all know how Mount Weather turned out in The 100: Season 2 .
The villains plan to release a gas that gives everyone in Chicago a memory wipe. The heroes act as if it is a terrible idea, but it is a non-lethal weapon that will stop the war and prevent any further killing.
The setting is original but the storyline is quite basic. Our protagonist must make allies, explore the maze and eventually save everyone. It is adapted from a Young Adult novel, so it is not overly complicated. However, it is well-made and the style makes up for the substance. All in all, quite a watchable effort.
Our teenage heroes find themselves guests in a bunker where they are checked out by medical personnel. But does the boss (Aiden Gillen - Game of Thrones ) have their best intentions at heart? Or is this like in The 100: Season 2 ?
Our heroes make their way across the desert, AKA the Scorch of the title. It does not live up to its reputation, as it is not the thing that actually inflicts damage on their group. No, what puts them in danger is their tendency to REPEATEDLY wander around in dark creepy ruins where the Fast Zombies are lurking! Also note, when wandering in the desert everyone seems to use camp-fires that can be seen many miles away. And they assume that the villains will be unable to track them down!
Our heroes meet Giancarlo Esposito (an untrustworthy renegade who is a more ragged-looking version of his character in Revolution ) and Alan Tudyk (not at all like his character in Firefly ). Can they find Sanctuary, like in Logan’s Run ? Will the rebel leaders ( Lilli Taylor and Barry Pepper - Battleground Earth ) shelter them? And since the villains use helicopters as their main assault vehicle, do the rebels have lookouts and Anti-Aircraft weapons at the ready?
The title character is basically a female James Bond. The brutal violence is like something out of Jason Bourne , but she also has the sex drive of 007. The last female action character who could compete with Bond in this area is Barbarella .
The blonde is sent to West Berlin, where she is teamed up with the local British agent (James McAvoy - Wanted ). They team up against the KGB.
Fifteen years later, the girl has grown up to be Zoe Saldana . She may be the best assassin in the world, but she has a very nasty habit of grandstanding. Leaving a calling card is bad enough, but instead of killing a man with a single shot she takes out all his security team as well for no reason. This does not get her enemy's attention, she just gets herself targeted by FBI Agent Lennie James ( Walking Dead ).
The arch-villain, the Colombian drug lord who killed her parents, is under witness relocation thanks to CIA Agent Callum Blue ( Dead like Me ). However, he still has his old death squad hanging around.
This was directed by Olivier Megaton , and is basically a cliched shoot-em-up.
Natassia Malthe is a Ninja sent to kill the Princess for abandoning the clan. The so-called Ninjas use Chinese skills, not Japanese ones, but this is not the kind of film to take seriously.
The fights are well-shot and expertly choreographed, but it descends to typically OTT wire-fu. This was shot by a Hong Kong director on a Hollywood budget ...
Like all modern crime/action thrillers, this owes a lot to the works of Quentin Tarantino . It is basically Kill Bill made on the budget of Reservoir Dogs.
The film is intended to be shown to American audiences without subtitles. As a result it completely lacks subtlety. For example, when Johansson becomes a cyborg the doctor ( Juliette Binoche ) explains that her mind - the Ghost of the title - is in a shell-like robot body.
The Major, a cyborg, is part of a police unit that runs a dystopian city. The villains are held to be bad people because they believe that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. In contrast, the police kill suspects on sight and rarely take prisoners, so the issue of morality is irrelevant.
This has elements of fairytales, with Hanna as a Little Red Riding Hood and Blanchett as a Wicked Witch. But Bana is an unstoppable killing machine in his own right, especially compared to the mediocre henchmen that Blanchett deploys, that the main battle is something of an anti-climax.
Can the lead actress cut it? She is a Mixed Martial Arts cage-fighter, not a supermodel or Shakespearean thespian, but the script was written for her strengths. If The Rock can follow in Arnold Schwarzenegger's footsteps, why can a woman not do likewise? A look at the male action stars (Van Damme, Seagal, Lundgren, etc) shows a tendency towards athleticism over thespianism.
Stephen Soderburgh delivers a lot of action, but the cast does not let up in terms of acting ability. Duplicitous characters include Michael Fassbender ( X-Men: First Class ), Ewan McGregor ( Star Wars: TPM ) and Antonio Banderas ( Mark of Zorro ).
The McGuffin is a new drug that unlocks the human brain’s full potential. This was previously covered in the film Limitless , where the drug only increased intelligence. However, in this film the drug also gives the taker telepathy, then telekinesis … and finally turns them into a Star Trek creature of pure energy.
The film starts slowly, as we get to know a bit about each of the characters. This does not really make us care about any of them, because everything is so slow-moving that they just seem a bit boring. There is a certain amount of tension, however. That is because of the ever-present fear that this story might just be another Frankenstein story, the kind that every robot-based storyline usually turns into - one where the scientists are destroyed by their own creation.
Things really start to happen with the arrival of the interrogator (Paul Giamatti - ). His scene-stealing, scenery-chewing performance really brings the show to life, and lets us realise exactly what is missing from the rest of the film. Unfortunately this is something of a high point. There are a few action scenes, including the compulsory car chase, but nothing in the original setup really led up to this.
When this came out, mainstream critics lauded it as the first female-led action movie. Of course, not only is this a slap in the face to fans of the Resident Evil franchise or the Underworld series, but it also ignores the fact that the female lead in this film had already starred in TWO Lara Croft movies!
Our hero is Crusading Journalist Stieg Larson - oops, I mean Mikhail von Blumberg - who looks like International sex symbol James Bond (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale ). He is in trouble for harassing and slandering a businessman who is supposed to have helped finance the Croatian Militias in the defence of their families during the Serbian genocide of the 1990s. Wow, no political point-scoring here.
The title character is Lizbo Salamander ( Rooney Mara ) , who has single-handedly invented the Goth-chick look. Wow, how original! She is a ward of the state - ooh, poor victim. Wait a minute, she is a violent sociopath with multiple convictions for violent felonies. If this story had been re-set in the USA, rather than having English-speaking actors pretending to be Swedish, she would be just another ex-convict being hassled by her Parole Officer. Instead we are meant to side with her against the corrupt socialist institutions that the author Larson himself champions!
The protagonists are hired to investigate a missing persons case. They stumble across a serial killer - more of a Ted Bundy than a John Wayne Gacy, so it is Fem-Jep instead of gay-bashing. The implication is that this is linked to Nazis and anti-Semitism. In reality, Sweden was one of the LEAST fascist European countries in the 1940s - despite having pro-Nazi dictatorships for all their neighbours, and the spectre of invasion by Stalinist Russia, the Swedes remained staunchly neutral (and thus saved thousands of civilians from the Holocaust). Also, not all Nazis were anti-Semitic (and vice versa). But Larson, ever keen to make political attacks on people he disagrees with, ignores the facts.
The morals of the story? Freedom of speech is vital, unless you disagree with Stieg Larson's opinions. Big business is corrupt and should be shut down - by an equally corrupt Socialist regime. Rape is horrible and should not be glamourised or exploited - except in stories like this. All in all, self-righteous hypocritical crap.
A Female Supremacist ( Buffy meets Romper Stomper) takes on the organised sex trade. This is hypocritical, since she pays for lesbian sex herself. A pity that Emma Watson did not get the role for the US remake, because the film would be a great hit if it had Hermione Granger going down on another woman!
This was written by a journalist with his own political agenda to push, and it shows. His hypocrisy is dreadful. In the book he states that a woman merely experiments with bondage, while he accuses a man who does the same of acting out sick rape fantasies.
Bourne goes to Switzerland, but incurrs the wrath of the local cops. He seeks refuge in the US embassy, which is outside the police jurisdiction. The bad news is that the US Government also wants to arrest him. The good news is, much like Schwartzenegger in Total Recall , he discovers he has a very particular set of skills. Other good news is that he gets a lift with an attractive German woman ( Franka Portente ).
It turns out that Bourne was a CIA assassin for a unit known as Treadstone. His target was Adebisi (Mr Eko from Lost ), and when Bourne botched the hit his bosses assumed he was a traitor. As a result Bourne has enemies all around him.
CIA mastermind Chris Cooper ( ) and his henchwoman Nicky Parsons ( Julia Stiles ) send all their other assassins after Bourne. The best is a sniper (Clive Owen - Shoot'Em Up ), who at the time of this film's release was short-listed as the next James Bond .
The Third Act has Bourne return to Paris and go after Cooper and Nicky.
Bourne is now ready to go on a rollicking rampage of revenge. As soon as he gets to Fortress Europe he pays a visit to Marton Csokas (one of Karl Urban's fellow veterans from Xena: Warrior Princess ).
Landy is also on the hunt. The CIA Director teams her with a former Treadstone boss (Brian Cox - Manhunter ) and sends her to Germany to catch Bourne. They conscript Nicki ( Julia Stiles ), the only person who has met Bourne and lived.
A Guardian reporter named Simon Ross (Paddy Considine - Girl With All The Gifts ) is investigating the trail of carnage Bourne has left in his wake. He stumbles across another conspiracy, an upgraded version of Treadstone known as Blackbriar. Unfortunately he mentions it on a phone line, and naturally it is flagged as a keyword on the NSA's Echelon system. As a result, the CIA's murder-squad is running all over London. Luckily, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon - The Martian ) wants Ross to help him track down the men behind Treadstone.
CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn - Silence Of The Lambs ) gets his buddy Noah Vosen (David Strathairn - Alphas ) to take charge of the situation. After all, Vosen is in charge of Blackbriar so they are both deeply implicated in it. Pam Landy ( Joan Allen ) is a rising star because she got credit for the positive result in the previous film. As a result she is pulled into the hunt for Bourne again. Also, she would be a good patsy if Blackbriar were exposed.
In the second act, Bourne goes looking for the journalist's source. Luckily the person in question has realised the CIA is on the hunt, and has fled south of the Brandt line. Specifically, to the exotic city of Tangier in Morocco. The bad news is that a Blackbriar operative is on his tail. The good news is that Bourne has a familiar face to help him. Yes, Nicky Parsons ( Julia Stiles ) is still in the CIA despite her reluctance to get involved last time.
One of the problems with this is the idea that Blackbriar is regarded as illegal. The reality is that ever since 9/11 the US Intelligence Agency has conducted assassinations, usually using either Special Forces units or drone strikes. If a wet-work operation like Treadstone or Blackbriar were revealed it would not be any more shocking than any real-life CIA operation such as the ones depicted in Zero Dark Thirty .
The CIA creates a group of super-soldiers, experts in assassination. It then inexplicably uses them as deep cover agents, where they have to blend in and avoid any of the combat situations they were created for. The assassinations are left to teams of normal agents with norrmal weapons and skills.
Super-soldier Jeremy Renner ( Avengers Assemble ) is targeted for assassination by his own side, so he goes on the run. He is running out of super-soldier-serum so he needs more.
The only person who can help him is Rachel Weitz , conveniently a beautiful woman (and thus a potential love interest). They go on the run together, as always happens in this kind of thing.
Bourne hangs out with illegal immigrants in Greece, about as far north of the Brandt line as he can safely go without getting picked up by NSA electronic intelligence. He gets contacted by Nicky Parsons ( Julia Stiles ), who has left the CIA. She has decided to do a Snowdon and reveal the CIA's secret black-ops programs. Bourne gets called in to save her.
The CIA now come after Nicky and Bourne. Pamela Landy ( Joan Allen ) has disappeared, presumably promoted to Vice President or sent off to run Death Race in a top-security prison somewhere. Instead, the main female in the unit is Alicia Vikander . She looks so young that it seems like she is there for work experience, or perhaps it is Bring your daughter to work day. It turns out that she graduated from Stanford a few years previously, but she must have shot up the ranks to be in such a sensitive job while she is still in her twenties.
Bourne starts to remember his father (Gregg Henry - Just Before Dawn ), a CIA analyst who was blown up in a supposed terrorist bombing. Now, in a gratuitous sub-plot, it turns out that Bourne now has extra motivation. My name is Inigo Bourne, you killed my father - prepare to die!
The CIA Director is busy with his new master-plan. He wants to use a social media app to harvest everyone's data. This is pretty much the villain's plan in Spectre . If it has now become a cliche, it is because this film reflects public news stories. In real life, Snowdon's revelations indicate that the NSA already uses such techniques. It is useless against terrorists, who do not have facebook profiles, and is only useful as a tool of mass oppression against law-abiding citizens. This movie is basically art imitating life, but in the real world the bad guys have already won.