One giant leap
In director Doug Liman’s Jumper, Hayden Christensen plays a young man with a unique talent: He can go anywhere instantly. OK, well, maybe not anywhere. Or maybe he can—Liman and his writers (David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg, from Steven Gould’s novel) are so eager to get into all their nifty “jump” effects that they’re a little careless about letting us in on the exact rules of the game.
Hayden Christensen plays David Rice, the movie’s title role. He discovers his capacity for split-second tourism as a teenager in Ann Arbor, Mich., when young David (played by Max Thieriot, a good match for Christensen) falls through the ice on a frozen river. In a panic and at the point of drowning, David suddenly finds himself—soaked to the skin but otherwise safe and sound—on a pile of books in the stacks of the local public library.
That night, when his scruffy father (Michael Rooker) yells at him for coming home sopping wet and tracking river water all over the rug, David does what any novice teleporter would do: He runs away from home—or rather, “jumps” away—to New York City, where he moves into a low-rent transient hotel. Before long, he launches a new career as a bank robber (how cool is that?), casing a bank vault before jumping into it that night and absconding with all the money he can stuff into one of his grimy hotel sheets (actually, the sheet is pressed into service when he decides a pillowcase isn’t big enough).
By the time he’s grown into Hayden Christensen, David has moved uptown to a super bachelor pad with all the toys a footloose young man can wish for—including a wall decorated with photos of what are later called “jump points.” (Apparently, David can only jump to a place he has seen or can adequately visualize—again, the script doesn’t say.) This enables him to jaunt over to London and go clubbing, stopping off at the face of Big Ben, from which he jumps to the street below. He picks up a cool blonde and goes home with her, then, while she’s still asleep, flits to the South Pacific for some great surfing and tops things off with a leisurely lunch on the head of the Great Sphinx (having picked up a beach chair somewhere along the way).
But David’s frequent-flyer lifestyle has inevitably attracted attention. First, it’s a mysterious character named Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who poses as a federal agent investigating David’s robberies but is obviously something entirely else. Then David’s careless jumping from one end to the other of that London bar catches the eye of Griffin (Jamie Bell), another Jumper who takes David more or less under his wing (“Did you think you were the only one?”). Roland, Griffin says, is one of a secret army of “Paladins” who travel the world rooting out and killing Jumpers.
And through it all, David has never forgotten his high-school sweetheart Millie (first AnnaSophia Robb, later Rachel Bilson). When he takes her on a vacation to Rome—in the normal way, on a plane—he unwittingly makes her a pawn in Roland’s vendetta.
Director Liman tries, by ramping up the frenetic furor of David and Griffin’s globetrotting battles with Roland and his crew, to keep the illogic of his story from bothering us overmuch, but questions pop in and out of the picture almost as frequently as David himself. When David jumps back into Millie’s life, she’s long since given up her dream of seeing Rome; the next day she’s gazing raptly at the Colosseum. Did she have a passport all that time, just in case? And how did David get a passport anyway; don’t you have to show a birth certificate or something? Why are the Paladins out to exterminate Jumpers? Roland calls them “an abomination before God” or something like that, but really, that’s a little thin. Why does David start calling Griffin by his name when he’s never been told what it is? And how does David’s long-gone mother (Diane Lane, with special “and” billing for her minuscule role) figure in all this? A final scene between them raises more question than it answers.
Well, the movie tells us, don’t worry about all that. Just grab hold, take a deep breath, and jump. Don’t look before you leap. Or after, for that matter.