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THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM by Paul Greengrass

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*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still chasing – and being chased by – the CIA. He still wants to find out who he really is and what happened to him, and they still want him dead. If you have seen The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy you know the drill: much running and jumping, narrow escapes, close-quarter man-to-man combat, really wobbly camerawork (the “unsteady-cam”) and extreme close-up for 111 minutes – which does get a bit tiresome.
Quiet moments are rare but superior to the non-stop action, for example when Bourne meets a journalist (Paddy Considine) at Waterloo Station (London). Here Bourne shows the true qualities of a secret agent – his enormous awareness. In a crowd of hundreds of people he is able to spot hostile agents within seconds, to assess the ever-changing situation while everybody is constantly moving, to remain invisible himself and to navigate a clueless journalist through the crowd. A masterful demonstration of concentration, attention and supremacy. And a piece of genius film-making.
There is obviously more to Bourne than jumping and fighting, but we don’t see enough of that. And while there was his relationship with Marie (Franka Potente) in The Bourne Identity to relate to Bourne on an emotional level (and to have some quieter moments between the action pieces), there is nothing like this in The Bourne Ultimatum, making both the character and the film emotionally poorer.
And when the conclusion finally comes, it feels flat, too. So we learn Bourne’s real name is David Webb, but almost nothing about the man David Webb once was. All we learn is that he was eager to serve his country and that he volunteered for the Treadstone program where he was first broken and then turned into an agent/assassin with quite unpleasant behavior-modificating procedures. But who was David Webb the man? No clue there. Maybe not the nice, innocent guy who got in trouble devoid of guilt Bourne may have hoped he once was, because he volunteered with more than a vague hunch what he was getting himself into (as we learn in the brief flashbacks when Bourne’s memory returns). That’s a nice melancholic touch but not really satisfying. But then, nothing could be really satisfying – Bourne discovering he really was simply a nice guy would seem dull, and we surely wouldn’t want to find out that he was a jerk in his former life. Either way, the Bourne we know and love – the man on the ultimate and noble journey to find the truth and himself – is gone and replaced by something less heroic.
Part of the appeal of The Bourne Identity was the freshness – Jason Bourne was the new James Bond when the original Bond had become a hackneyed joke with invisible cars. But five years later, the raw and brutish style introduced by The Bourne Identity has become the standard. Casino Royale owes a lot to Jason Bourne, but let’s face it – James has “out-bourned” Jason and is still (or again) the daddy!


The Bourne Ultimatum movie trailer

3 Responses to “THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM by Paul Greengrass”

  1. itsvery Movie Review Blog - Independent Film Reviews » THE KINGDOM by Peter Berg Says:

    […] Starting with a brief history of US-Saudi Arabian history and the detailed depiction of the terrorist attack, followed by the introduction of the main characters, you might think of The Kingdom as a political film. You might still think so following the slow build-up, but the action-film clich├ęs are creeping in right away (”cowardish” and hesitant officials order to stay put, gung-ho “brave” FBI agents take matters in their own hands), and they are here to stay and rise their ugly heads until they finally take over completely. There is “CSI: Riyadh”, there is the mismatched cop team (Jamie Foxx and Ashraf Barhoum), the culture-clashing, the “heros on foreign and hostile territory”, and before you notice, you are deep in Rambo-country, the place where American revenge-, justice- and victory dreams come true, complete with Bourne-style “realistic” shaky camera to draw the audience in and give it a feeling of reality. […]

  2. Movie Review » SALT by Phillip Noyce Says:

    […] it larger than the ego of two Hollywood superstars, and Salt is saved from looking like the latest Bourne-ripoff only by Jolie’s performance and the gravity-defying […]

  3. Movie Review » SALT by Phillip Noyce Says:

    […] it larger than the ego of two Hollywood superstars, and Salt is saved from looking like the latest Bourne-ripoff only by Jolie’s performance and the gravity-defying […]

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