Samuel L Jackson
Imagine that you could go anywhere in the world in the merest blink of an eye. Leave your New York apartment in the morning, seconds later pick up a girl in a London pub for the night, and before she has woken up go off surfing in Mexico or in Fiji, take breakfast (or is it lunch?) on the head of the Sphinx, and get back home for the evening with no-one the wiser as to where you have been. Or, if you like, empty a bank vault without having to go through the inconvenience of breaking in or out.
These are the powers of a ‘jumper’, and ever since troubled David Rice (Hayden Christensen) discovered them in his teens, he has been leading a shadow-life of hedonistic escapism until, that is, the jumper-hunting ‘paladin’ Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) appears with an arsenal of rather unusual weapons to remind David that actions always leave a trail of consequences. Relentlessly pursued across the globe by Roland, David joins forces with another jumper called Griffin (Jamie Bell) all the while trying to keep his secret from his childhood sweetheart Millie (Rachel Bilson). The truth, however, will out, and the time is fast approaching for David to stop running.
The power of jumping is also, of course, the power of editing, and from the intertwining narratives of Go to the globe-trotting espionage of The Bourne Identity, director Doug Liman has long proved adept at weaving an illusion of unity out of multiple locations and time-frames. As a consequence, the teleportation superheroics of his latest film Jumper (based on the novels by Steven Gould) serve on one level to dramatise the inner workings of Liman’s own skills as filmmaker. Sure, the characters here defy physics and logic with their instantaneous leaps through space, but even when they are called upon to travel by more conventional means of transport, a 10-hour plane flight from Detroit to Rome is still compressed into a few seconds of screen-time thanks to the magical economy with which Liman cuts his sequences together.
Jumper certainly does race along, culminating in a delirious chase-and-fight sequence whose settings prove eye-bogglingly mercurial – but the film is ultimately let down by its own belatedness. Hasn’t Spiderman already shown us an adolescent hero learning that with great power comes great responsibility? And haven’t we already seen both ‘jumping’ skills, and cat-and-mouse business between empowered mutants and the organisations devoted to destroying them, not only in the X-Men series but also more recently in television’s Heroes – both of which offer a much more varied range of powers and personal dramas than are on offer here?
By comparison with these antecedents, Jumper feels poorly-knitted and flimsy. The characters are not quite interesting enough to carry the plot on their own, their moral dilemmas are nothing new, the action and effects merely beef up what is really just one long chase, and there is the sense that we are witnessing the ‘origins’ story for a projected franchise rather than a film in its own right. Given that its most interesting development does not emerge until the very last scene, Jumper never really seems, for all its spatial to-ing and fro-ing, to get up and moving properly. Perhaps it should have been called Hopper…