A lot has been touted about the great action sequences of The Bourne Ultimatum. In all honestly, I can think of two places were I think the film jumped the shark in the action department. But I’ll keep those to myself. Nevertheless, The Bourne Ultimatum is a great film and here are a few non-action reasons why.
First, the story. We pick up the action exactly where we left off in The Bourne Supremacy. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has bested the latest super assassin sent after him by the “Agency”, and now he is on the run from the Moscow police who want him in connection to the horrific auto collision he managed to walk away from. He finds a clinic where he steals a moment of solitude to nurse his wounds when he is hit with a paralyzing flashback. Long halls. White lights. Dog tags.
Two security guards discover him while he is having the episode. One guard makes the mistake of trying to arrest Bourne, at which point Bourne takes him down in about three seconds. Bourne’s gun is honed on the second guard in a millisecond and the man pleads for his life, as he is unarmed.
Bourne takes a long moment to regroup and assess. Finally, he lowers his weapon and in Russian he says, “My argument is not with you.” And thus, Jason Bourne makes the decision to find the people who made him into what he is.
The bad guys, who are supposed to be the good guys, come at Bourne with everything they have but end up shooting their own efforts in the foot because all their moves are fear based. Bourne is not after revenge; he is after answers. And, as Matt Damon has said in many an interview lately, “Bourne gets all his answers by the end of this movie.”
So what is there to talk about besides the car chases and the lightning fast hand to hand combat?
The acting is great. My prevailing memory of The Bourne Supremacy was that the film was dialogue light. But as I watched the latest installment, I discovered the silences were laden with subtext and dramatic tension between the characters. So much in this film is conveyed with just looks, a single touch and even stillness. It speaks highly of performances in this film, that the internal work is just as, if not more, compelling as the spoken dialogue. Even in the quiet moments, I was on the edge of my seat.
The script for Ultimatum is intricate and echoes the first two films subtly yet brilliantly. It quickly brings newcomers up to speed without depending exclusively on flashback. The film also revisits key elements from the previous Bourne films that fans of the series will certainly appreciate and recognize. I actually thought I caught a blooper. There’s a moment when I was certain someone had forgotten to consult the Bourne Bible before writing the scene and the mistake actually made it all the way to screen. But I was the one deceived. Well done. (Die-hards of the Bourne film series will know exactly what I mean.)
This film beautifully shot. From the street level chaos to every signature quick zoom aerial, the images are rich and textured, truly capturing the feel of each exotic country. The extreme close ups are often obscured over-the-shoulder shots that, I noticed, had half the audience leaning to the side, trying to see more.
From moment to moment, you really don’t know who is going to buy it next, because it can literally be anyone. That’s another thing I really liked about Ultimatum: sometimes Bourne gets there too late. He may be the perfect killer, but he is imperfect hero. He is one man up against an army with limitless resources. That is what makes his every success so extraordinary, and his hard-fought failures so poignant and frustrating.
I love water motif through the series. We first meet Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, floating adrift in the Mediterranean Sea when, a fishing boat plucks him from the water. Ultimatum continues the theme, as water becomes a trigger for Bourne’s flashback. From a sink faucet to deep blue rivers, water is a powerful connective tissue that ties together Bourne’s lost past, the tempestuous reality of his present and his uncertain future.
Ok, ok. I’ll say one thing about the action. Jason Bourne’s rooftop sprint in Tangiers…simply awesome. For a minute there, I thought I was in The Matrix. The obstacles, the camera work… just fantastic. (Eat your heart of Mr. Cruise.)
I don’t go to see mainstream movies much anymore because I am usually disappointed; particularly considering the rising cost of admission.
I paid full price to see The Bourne Ultimatum. Twice. That is the highest praise I can give it.
The Bourne Ultimatum (wide release)
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Running Time: 1 hr. 51 min.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action
Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles,
David Strathairn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez