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#1 Clint Hulsey

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Posted 01 August 2016 - 10:37 PM

Saw Jason Bourne today, and while I certainly don't post about every movie I see for various reasons (I don't feel like typing that much, I don't have anything interesting to add, most of the people on here are smarter than me, etc etc,), I noticed that there hasn't been a topic started on it yet, so I thought I'd mention a few things I noticed.

 

The camera work is what stood out to me the most. It has been a while since I have seen Captain Phillips (probably when it first came out on DVD), but I do seem to remember it having a documentary feel (the scene at the end when Hanks is being treated by the doctors stands out in my mind). While no one will accuse a big action movie like Bourne of having a "documentary feel" (a cliche that probably isn't helpful anyway), the movie makes extreme use (or at least made to look like it did) of handheld cameras. While it doesn't quite go into "shaky cam" like you might see in "camera in universe" movies, the handheld nature of the movie is pretty intense, especially in the first half. Some scenes that stand out include Damon and Stiles early scene, especially when they are going through the Greek Parliament riot (I won't spoil anything, this was featured prominently in trailers (this Damon/Stiles scene is sort of weakened by some mediocre sound editing as the clearly ADR voices are unbelievably clear and audible in normal voice volume in the middle of a riot) and also (which is actually part of the same "scene") in the control room with TLJ and Vikander's character, as the camera just kind of spins around and looks at everything the viewer is supposed to see, including using some rough focus pulling (and even a fairly prominent focus "buzz" in Damon's initial scene). That doesn't mean that the movie isn't "cutty", as it is an American action movie (not a value statement, I just can't imagine the average shot length is more than four seconds, even with the moving camera shots) and Rouse's editing can leave you loopy (again, this by design, see Paycheck and Italian Job (I dislike how the couple of fist fight scenes were cut, as you couldn't see anything, like it was Batman Begins or something, but this may be because of the seeking of the PG-13 rating, which the film really presses the boundary of in terms of violence (just a thought that occurred to me know, there was never even the thought of sex/nudity or anything throughout the film, which considering the importance of two female characters in the movie, I think says something and may be a sign that we are heading toward a future of better female characters) though there are a couple of times, two prominently in the climax, where I feel like R violence would have made the shots/scenes much more powerful, but that is an entirely different discussion)), but walking shots usually didn't involve a stationary camera that is walked away from and then cut and we are not stationary in front of them and letting them walk to the camera (there is one hallway shot where Damon walks in direction of camera, which then turns to see him walk away for a few seconds before cutting to him by the door), and neither are they steadicam. Instead, they are handheld (especially one in the epilogue that sticks out in my mind that almost shakes the subject's entire back of head out of the frame for a step), which is really interesting. I don't remember any of Ackroyd's previous work (that I've seen, which is only 5 or 6 movies honestly) being like that, but I could be mistaken.

 

More interesting to me was the use of zooms, especially considering how rare it is to see a zoom in a big Hollywood movie (I still laugh when I see a zoom in an 80s Woody Allen movie because I just don't notice them a lot in movies (I am sure someone on here can document a whole bunch of prominent zooms that I am missing). On a side note, I wonder if that is why some of the moving shots are so shaky, they are zoomed in!). There are a few zooms scattered throughout the film, including in the initial Damon scene that I mentioned earlier. More prominently, they are used in aerial shots, which the film is full of, not just in transitions (though nearly every scene transition seemed to have an aerial shot). I recall seeing a zoom in an aerial shot before, but I can't remember in what movie (and I am not talking about the Google map effect where it is sort of a fake visual effect zoom. I am talking about an actual zoom that just cuts the picture in half or so). Bourne uses zooms in aerial shots and even had a zoom out from in the air. Maybe there are plenty of examples that I am missing, but it seemed unique to me.

 

On how the movie looked: I swear I saw the trailer for the movie five or six times (going to a theater every weekend or so), and it seemed like every time I checked, the IMDB technical specs added a new camera/format to the movie. In my initial viewing today, I could (of course, I have the bias of "knowing" there are different formats and therefore tried to look for them, so take it for what it is worth) see (some of the night shots looked much different/cleaner than other night scenes, for example) that the movie obviously used a couple different formats (excluding the flashback scenes, which were obviously shot/colored/etc differently), but I am not smart enough to pick them up or guess which is which (part of the reason being that the movie is such a blur as I mentioned earlier and it being a first time, I wanted to follow the plot, etc, but I'm also no kind of expert, therefore I can't always spot the difference. I know Mullen and Purcell (and probably others) could watch it and point out each shot which used each format right then, but also one of the points of doing all the post-production effects and DI is to disguise the obvious differences so they aren't distracting (unless you are Stone and you want to show the differences for philosophical, whatever, reasons)). However, I wasn't entirely pleased with how the movie looked. I'm sure all the different formats (it is funny how big action movies, B v. S being another example, have kind of gone full Malick/Stone in using so many different cameras and formats) made it difficult or impossible (the ARRIRAW being 2.8k for example) to make a 4k digital intermediate out of it, but I guess I don't understand the point of making a 120 million dollar movie and sending it to theaters in a lower res than cheaper movies that have 4k exports. One shot that particularly stood out to me as being a real negative was at the end of the climax where a character walks away from the camera out of the tunnel (?) and in what is a particularly important shot (a shot to show you that the danger is over, the action is really over, and is the kind of shot I usually think movies should end on instead of dragging us through an epilogue, but that is a different discussion) is instead all kinds of noisy and orange and just kind of mediocre looking. It was not the big shot it should have been. Honestly, I thought the best looking images came in the big car chase in the climax that I assume was shot using the Codex Action Cam (though I probably have some bias here, as I am a big fan of through the windshield shots, but the images themselves looked really clean, unlike the aerial scenes, which I thought probably looked the worst in the way the movement just kind of blurred everything and nothing really seemed in focus, a couple different ground level wide establishing shots were kind of like this as well). One positive thing I thought the film had going for it, and this is more of a framing/camera angle thing that probably should go above, was how it photographed faces. The movie used a lot of close ups, about the neck shots, sometimes even cropping the chin out, which seem really powerful in 2:35:1 (humorously, most of the trailers were in 1:85:1. Has anybody checked whether or not the usage of 2:35 has gone down or up in recent years on a whole?) when you are sitting in a good spot in a theater (I kind of buy into the Terry Gilliam idea that closeups in wide are more powerful than closeups in more narrow aspect ratios (or wide lenses versus non)). Obviously people have used closeups before, but there was something about the way the movie used them that I can't put quite into words (perhaps it is the juxtaposition of how Vikander looks when you put a camera right in her face versus TLJ, mixed in with the angry Damon face that he seems to pull off well, just communicating, as he does in much of the movie, so much so that he seems less powerful when he talks, with just his facial expression).

 

Other notes: As you would expect, the acting is very good, though I can't say I am a big fan of Stiles honestly. I can't put my finger on why, but it generally seems like she acts angry when she isn't supposed to be, or is trying really hard to be angry and tough. Maybe that is unfair. Acting is hard. Over the past couple of years, I have really begun to appreciate TLJ, who I used to think was sort of one note that could be played two ways, but he has pretty remarkable range in my opinion (watch No Country, Bourne, Homesman, Sunset Limited, and Three Burials within a short time period and I think it would be hard to disagree). Vincent Cassell is sort of one note (Black Swan might be an exception), but is usually a pretty good note, Vikander is great (again, a lot is conveyed just by facial expressions and lingering camera, which has to be, as she is double acting for part of the movie), and I am not sure what to say about Damon. Also, Gregg Henry!

 

I honestly don't remember the other Bourne movies (I haven't seen the Renner one and I don't think I've seen the last Damon one honestly) that well, except the first one, which I remember being really good and interesting. However, I do remember Powell's scores, which I liked. However, I am not a musical person at all, and I usually don't really notice soundtracks unless they are bad or amazing until second or third viewing or if I hear the soundtracks without the movie. I don't know why Powell wasn't the sole composer in this one, but the music really just seemed to accompany the action in my opinion. There are two gigantic and long action scenes and the orchestra really powers up for them. I'm not sure what to say other than that.

 

Visual effects were good because I didn't notice them, special effects were what you would expect: things crashed, blew up, etc. Whether someone would like the movie would depend on taste obviously. It's not a transcending action movie, though I don't think it tried to be. It is a political thriller with some big action and modern relevance. Anyway, I've been a long time reader of this site, but a very infrequent poster because I don't feel like I have much to add to most of the discussions here. Hopefully this post doesn't show that I should have just kept my mouth shut.


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#2 Manu Delpech

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Posted 02 August 2016 - 03:46 AM

To be honest, your post is so long that I didn't read everything, but there's an AC article this month (and another one available online, and it's been there for a few months). The main format on this bad boy is 35mm, super 16 for some scenes, and Alexa on the night stuff and some smaller ones for other stuff.. Ackroyd obviously wanted to shoot the whole thing on film, but he said that the second unit guys DEMANDED the use of Alexa on the big action scenes taking place at night, namely the Las Vegas set piece, because they had multiple cameras flying around and they wanted the live playback to see exactly what they had. If I'm remembering this correctly, he said that in the DI, they made sure to take the digital footage and treat it exactly as they would the film footage, ie through a film color space or something like that and making it as seamless as possible. 


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#3 KH Martin

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Posted 02 August 2016 - 07:52 AM

I assume AC will allocate more space for their article, but as Manu indicated, my HDVP piece has been online for awhile. DP  and DIT were only persons interviewed, as studio didn't want VFX covered yet.

 

http://www.hdvideopr...bourne-is-back/


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#4 Clint Hulsey

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Posted 02 August 2016 - 01:50 PM

Thanks for the article Kevin, great stuff.


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#5 Manu Delpech

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Posted 02 August 2016 - 03:37 PM

I assume AC will allocate more space for their article, but as Manu indicated, my HDVP piece has been online for awhile. DP  and DIT were only persons interviewed, as studio didn't want VFX covered yet.

 

http://www.hdvideopr...bourne-is-back/

 

Sorry KH, I didn't remember where I saw the article ! Awesome to see the article so early too, great one.


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#6 Tim Tyler

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Posted 02 August 2016 - 06:20 PM

Thanks for the review, Clint.


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#7 Clint Hulsey

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Posted 04 August 2016 - 09:24 PM

Turns out I was wrong about something above, as according to this article, it was not the Codex Action Cam that was used for the big car chase in the climax, but instead the small Blackmagic cameras: http://www.digitaltr...a-jason-bourne/

 

I wonder what they used the CAC for then (or maybe they used a mixture of both in that scene, as this article reads almost like a commercial or something), but I personally thought those were the most impressive looking images in the movie.


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#8 Shawn Martin

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 12:05 AM

Something about the script was "off" to me... Not that these movies are particularly complicated, but a lot of it seemed overly... simplistic, like the reason for Bourne's recruitment, the Asset's role in it, and the practically mustache-twisting CIA director. I think this was really missing Tony Gilroy's touch. Universal probably didn't bother approaching him, given how much he and Paul Greengrass despise each other - one of his conditions for coming on to write Bourne Ultimatum was that he wouldn't have to speak to Greengrass.

Not that long ago, I made an awful post in another topic about how I'd stopped caring about the differences between film and digital. It's interesting how even a big-budget, handheld zoomy movie like this can change that. The film stuff - including the grainy S16 flashbacks - really does look better than the digital. A lot more "real". It's reinvigorating, for some reason, to notice this again.
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#9 Richard Boddington

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 12:12 AM

Saw this last night, only because the guys wanted to see it.   My head is still jiggling from the handheld shaky cam, will somebody please buy these guys a freaking tri-pod!! None of us could read all the endless text messages on the various phone screens, again....constant camera shake.  It brings nothing to the table, why use it?

 

I also watched a good chunk of the first movie tonight, every script is identical. At least for Against The Wild 2 I had the decency to cross out "bear" and write in "lion". :)

 

R,


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#10 Justin Hayward

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 09:17 AM

My head is still jiggling from the handheld shaky cam. It brings nothing to the table, why use it?

 

 

Well, we associate hand held camera work with documentaries and we associate documentaries with realism, therefore hand held camera equals realism. :blink:   But I imagine any documentary cameraman that shot a legit doc as shaky as anything in the Greengrass Bourne movies would be fired on the first day.   :lol:


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#11 Clint Hulsey

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Posted 11 August 2016 - 09:40 AM

 

Well, we associate hand held camera work with documentaries and we associate documentaries with realism, therefore hand held camera equals realism. :blink:   But I imagine any documentary cameraman that shot a legit doc as shaky as anything in the Greengrass Bourne movies would be fired on the first day.   :lol:

 

Saw this last night, only because the guys wanted to see it.   My head is still jiggling from the handheld shaky cam, will somebody please buy these guys a freaking tri-pod!! None of us could read all the endless text messages on the various phone screens, again....constant camera shake.  It brings nothing to the table, why use it?

 

I also watched a good chunk of the first movie tonight, every script is identical. At least for Against The Wild 2 I had the decency to cross out "bear" and write in "lion". :)

 

R,

 

I imagine, as well as the "realism" angle, they are also going for a chaotic sensibility, which the editing also accomplishes. Particularly in the CIA scenes where they are initially "hacked" and then the scene where they are tracking Bourne during the Greek riots, there is a lot of crazy camera movement inside the CIA office (?) itself, which is a break from the norm of steady closeups/steadicam walking shots in the office versus crazy cutting/handheld in the action section of the scene. I know the makers of the film explicitly said that they were going for "documentary" feel, but I think chaos and intentional disorientation was a big part of it as well. 


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