Jumper review

DoG reviews 'Bourne' director Doug Liman's teleporting sci-fi actioner

Hayden Christensen - the eponymous 'Jumper'

For the generation that won’t wait for anything, the teleporting protagonists of Jumper may have more appeal than the likes of Spiderman and Wolverine. If you skip ads, sneak a peek at the last chapter of a book, have ever wanted to fast forward through a boring flight, or truncate the dull commute to work, it may be your fantasies that Hayden Christensen is living in Bourne director Doug Liman’s globe-trotting sci-fi outing.

Not content with such mundane shortcuts, gadabout Christensen is disposed to good living – financed by teleporting away the contents of bank vaults (though he does leave sweet I.O.U. notes) – in a New York penthouse; he breakfasts on top of the Sphinx, checks out London from the clock-face of Big Ben before going on the pull, and flits in and out of a series of holiday hot-spot locations that resemble a fast flick through a travel-agent’s plushest brochure.

But one day jumper-hunter Samuel L. Jackson – wearing the daftest hairpiece since Morgan Freeman impersonated R. Lee Ermey in Dreamcatcher – is waiting for him with a wake-up call. Jackson is a Paladin, a sect that has been hunting those Godless teleporters since at least the middle-ages, though the invention of electricity has given them the ability to pin the fidgety globetrotters down while they run them through with a nasty hunting-knife.

Fleeing Jackson, Christensen returns to the hometown he gladly fled as a youth, popping in for a brief visit with his drunken father at the dismal family home his mother abandoned when he was only five.

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Not ready to confess his life yet, he whisks his long-lost childhood sweetheart Millie (Rachel Bilson) off to Rome by plane, and sneaks them into the Coliseum after hours. It’s here that Christensen meets Griffin, another jumper – an excellent turn by Billy Elliott actor Jamie Bell – and the first of the big Paladin/Jumper fight sequences takes place. Informed that Jackson’s crusade will mow down everything in the way – including a jumper’s family and friends – Christensen puts his bewildered girlfriend on a flight home and tries to persuade Bell’s scruffy and reclusive jumper to help him take out Jackson and his clan before her plane lands…

The globe-trotting Bond-aping antics of Liman’s Bourne series are easier to swallow in the fantastic set-up of Jumper; there are no trains, planes or automobiles to edit out. A punch is thrown in Tokyo and the follow-up dodged in New York; a detonator dropped over the side of the Empire State building is recovered by free-fall teleporting, and at one point a handily-empty London bus is plucked out of Piccadilly Circus and thrown about as a sucker punch in a fight in the Sahara desert.

The cinematography is excellent, as are the special effects, but this is all a given with Liman. Christensen is effective but given little to do – outshone by Jamie Bell’s crazed globe-trotter, the ex-Sith will still have to rely on kudos from Shattered Glass to prove that he is an actor of worth, but here he furnishes a convincing and guileless action hero. Rachel Bilson is characterless, conventional and generally humpy, and it is only the fact that Christensen’s character has been obsessed with hers since he was a child that gives the courting couple any remote credibility.

Samuel L. Jackson once again plays…Samuel L. Jackson, and does a workmanlike job as a nemesis who believes he is doing God’s work by eradicating the near-omnipresent jumpers. Diane Lane has barely enough screen-time to register in the film, and the sole purpose of her contribution seems to be to set up a story arc element and the sequels…if there are any.

For all its international pyrotechnics, Jumper is held up by Jamie Bell, in spite of a few dropped aitches too many (the new sign of English credibility in Hollywood); Christensen is burdened with the kind of emotional baggage that would too easily stray into Peter Parker territory given free range, and Bilson is given only templated love-interest material with which to work.

The choice of a February release for such a high-profile sci-fi action film would normally indicate cold feet at Fox, but Cloverfield’s winter glory confuses the issue. This is one to walk, not run to, but a series may prove to be fun if the relationship elements can be more credibly approached, and if Bell stays on board.

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3 out of 5

Jumper is on general release from Friday 15th February

Rating:

3 out of 5