Running Time: 88 mins
Rated: Rated M (intense action, violence, language and some brief sexuality)
This high-wire action movie is a film ostensibly about hubris; about what happens when a person has the power of God. Not much it seems. The premise gets lost in there somewhere, along with plotting. But the scenery is terrific.
Central to the action are sequences filmed in the decaying labyrinth of the Colosseum. Historic, blood-soaked and moody, this place becomes the fulcrum for two key battles between the Jumpers - those who have the power to teleport themselves anywhere - and the Paladins, who turn out to be God's policemen. These warriors know that the Jumpers' power turns them bad. The film's Gladiator hero, David Rice, played by Hayden Christensen, (Anakin Skywalker in 'Star Wars', in 'Life as a House' and 'Shattered Glass') slides around the labyrinth of stone, slipping in Matrix like shafts of dusky light, from stone wall to stone wall. And the leader of the band of Chasers, is Roland, a glowering professional killer, played by a Samuel L. Jackson with discomfortingly white hair. He is definitely going to stay on task. Directed by Doug Liman of 'Bourne Identity' and 'Mr and Mrs Smith', the film carries much promise.
The story starts with bullying, capturing its diffident hero, known as Riceball to his high school tormentors, in mid trauma. It is as he falls into the frozen river in his hometown of Ann Arbour that David discovers his mysterious Jumping power. In the blink of an eye he finds he can teleport to the school library (of course) and so transits from a miserable life as outsider at school, living with dodgy dad at home, to power and privilege. He can do anything. As an opening gambit he jumps into a bank vault and then jumps back out again carrying its entire contents in grey garbage bags. The exultant Midas scene which follows, where he lies in a bed feathered with hundred dollar bills and tosses them aloft, sets the film's tone.
In the power version of a world tour, David Jumps around the world; from sunset to sunset; from Surfing to Sphinx; from swanky Manhattan Apartment to London Club. The settings are stunning. And there are never any consequences because there is always an easy out. That, at least, was true before he found out about the Paladins. This band trace his jumps electronically, they carry things called tethers which bind Jumpers. Their brutal knives mean business too. Fixated on his new freedom; David doesn't ever seem to figure the
consequences: for his poor drunken father, who meets a grisly end; for Millie, his girlfriend; for himself.
Millie (Rachel Bilson from TV's 'The OC') is the film's romantic interest and David's high school sweetheart. Finely cast, Rachel sustains a sweetly sincere girl-next-door demeanour for Millie, who ironically, is committed to a relationship tethered to honesty. This, in spite of her constant helplessness before each new violent surprise David brings, since he is keeping mum about the wealth and the mobility thing. They tread a prickly path. Millie reminds one of the old B- Grade Horror movie heroines when she asks irritatingly questions throughout most of the film's action moments. Rachel Bilson is worthy of greater than this. The talented Hayden Christensen balances his role as David nicely; moving between the insecurity and loneliness of life as a Jumper and an emerging confidence to confront challenges and try to face the past.
David claims he is different from the other Jumpers: tougher, more resolute, less scared. His attachment to Millie, for example, makes him vulnerable but it focuses his mind. David maybe new at the game but he is not into the solitary rat-in-a-hole life of his fellow Jumper, Griffin. Played by Jamie Bell ('Billy Elliot'), Griffin is punky and angry as he tries to tune David into the Realpolitik of Jumping. Together the duo brings the film's special effects on in a whirl. There is a stunning car chase with a stolen Mercedes that morphs through the traffic like a Jumper; the two Jump off the Observation Deck of the Empire State in Manhattan, struggle mid-air and then Jump back again before hitting the ground; encounters between them are seen from above in the speckled gyroscope of Shibuya's Hachiko Square and their fight scene slices through the battle in Chechnya with Griffin ending up laced helplessly through a collapsing power grid.
But what is the point? Once at the beginning of his life as a Jumper, David watches a TV sequence of a disaster where people must die because no one can rescue them. The glimmer in his mind barely breaks the surface. Maybe in the end he deals with some of his issues, but the film glories in the surface energies of place and pace. This diffident hero still has a way to go. In a perverse way, Roland is more authentically the hero.
Mrs Jenny MacMillan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.