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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Sitting down for the bi-weekly movie, we flicked through the channels and couldn’t find anything really good on that we hadn’t seen. We decided to watch The Bourne Ultimatum in High Def. It counts as a new viewing experience if it’s in HD, right?

Watching it, I was stunned at how much of the movie I’d forgotten since the first time I saw it. That’s not to say the movie is crap, it’s just the cinematic equivalent of junk food: quick, easy, tasty if you don’t think too hard about it, not particularly filling. Watching it as though for the first time, I was blown away by the set pieces: a tense siege at Waterloo station, a chase through Morocco and the finale car chase through New York. The film does these astonishingly well, tying together fancy stuntwork, a pulsating soundtrack and just the perfect amount of cutting (not too much, not too little). As action movies go, it is a very, very good example and comes highly recommended.

The only complaint lies in the overly complicated attempt at plot. As ever, our erstwhile secret-agent-cum-fugitive Jason Bourne is trying to piece together his past. The film is well-constructed as part of a trilogy (tying up loose ends and picking up in the midst of the action), but new viewers may be a bit lost. As a conclusion to the saga, it’s a little mediocre and simplistic, but that is arguably a claim that could be made of the series as a whole.

Even the final revelation about Bourne’s recruitment in Blackbriar doesn’t add a necessary shade of grey to the proceedings. The bumbling CIA-types, though played by Oscar-nominated actors, are never embued with any sense of depth or character – the film instead seems intent to portray its antagonists as power-mad bureaucrats, without an etching of genuine conviction or belief. Of course, this was present in the other two films, but maybe Chris Cooper and Brian Cox were better at shading than this film’s ensemble. Of course, this is a film where the good guy reads The Guardian.

In short, it doesn’t feel like Bourne has travelled particularly far in the span of three films, nor has he answered his own existentialist questions. He now knows his name before he entered the scheme, but he knows little of who he really was. All he’s really done is seemingly gut the middle management of America’s chief intelligence bureau.

The cast make the most of the roles. Any humanity in Bourne is brought to the fore by Matt Damon, who manages to do that despite a relatively small amount of dialogue (he’s a man of actions, not words, dammit). Joan Allen is, as ever, fantastic with a relatively light role. Albert Finney glowers impressively, Scott Glenn seems constantly disappointed and David Staithairn is a little self-righteous while out of his depth. No member of the cast plays outside their comfort zones. Not that any performer is weak, just that no one (with the possible exception of Damon) stands out.

It’s entertaining, fantastically staged and pounding. The story is too crude and simplistic to reach the depths it seems to seek. Taken as it is – a rip-roaring action adventure with amazing setpieces – it works wonderfully. Those looking for a subtle examination of the American intelligence-gathering community in anything but black-and-white terms will be disappointed.

All in all, better overall than The Bourne Identity, but weaker than The Bourne Supremecy.

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The Bourne Ultimatum is the third part of a trilogy following the adventures of amnesiac spy Jason Bourne. It is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) and features an ensemble of Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting, Dogma, The Good Sheppard), Joan Allen (Face/Off, Nixon), David Staithairn (Good Night and Good Luck), Albert Finney (Erin Brokovich, Miller’s Crossing) and Scott Glenn (Silence of the Lambs, W.). It was released in the United States on 3rd August 2007 and in the UK and Ireland on 17th August 2007.

One Response

  1. […] Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock), John Travolta (Grease, Pulp Fiction), Joan Allen (Nixon, The Bourne Ultimatum), Gina Gershon (Bound, Showgirls), Robert Wisdom (The Wire), Colm Feore (24), CCH Pounder (The […]

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