Friday, August 3, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

“I remember…I remember everything.”

When I heard the words above in the trailer chills went up my spine. I enjoyed The Bourne Identity but I was blown away by the second installment The Bourne Supremacy. So here was the sequel I was waiting for all summer. The result was a good, though slightly disappointing, film that is still better than most of the sequels this year.

We begin, seconds after Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) survival in the tunnel, with his escape from Russian police. The final scene from The Bourne Supremacy, the phone conversation between Bourne and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is later expertly woven into the main plot of this film. From there we move to the shadowy government forces still attempting to track Bourne down and hide the dirty secrets which are locked in his brain. Both Allen and Julia Stiles return, and although Stiles is given a larger (and somewhat continuity-questionable) role, Allen is demoted into the lone good guy in a room full of snakes who will do whatever it takes to keep their dirty little secrets hidden.

The evil government operatives this time include David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, and Albert Finney as well as more Bourne-like assassins played by Edgar Ramirez and Joey Ansah. I’d mention the other good guys, but there aren’t any. It’s Jason Bourne versus the world once again.

The film works on many levels. The frantic pace of the first two films is pushed up another notch creating constant tension and action. This movie runs at 100 mph the entire time without ever stopping to breathe. Greengrass brings the handheld camera and fast action, which does give some bad shaky-cam moments, but also puts the viewer right in the middle of the action. This technique works here because it adds the the pace of the film rather than detract from it (as was the case in Once).

The acting, locations, and stunt sequences are all first rate. However in an attempt to out-perform themselves a couple of the stunts in the film border on the Michael Bay-esque level of disbelief. Still, it’s another Bourne film with another kick ass car chase, so you will get your money’s worth in action, don’t worry.

In choosing the create the franchise in present day the producers and writers were able to use current technology which adds much to each story. However that initial choice is a double-edged sword. In removing the character of Jason Bourne from his origins the writers had to dump his entire background storyline. This wasn’t much a problem in the first two films, but here as Bourne puts the pieces of his past together it becomes a real issue.

Without Bourne’s time in Southeast Asia, without the lose of his family, and without the reasons for David Webb’s involvement in the program we are left with a gaping hole which screenwriters Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, and George Nolfi are not able to adequate close. The odd suggestions of Bourne’s past with Nicky (Stiles) and the flashbacks of Bourne’s, rather tame, torturous indoctornization hardly craft the same impact and resonance as Robert Ludlum’s original.

Although the reveal of Jason Bourne’s past is disappointing the film still carries a boatload of action and intrigue ratcheted up to the nth degree. As a fan of the series it’s not really the film I was hoping for, but there’s enough here to enjoy as its good points far outweigh its faults, though I wonder now if they shouldn’t have tried to stick closer to Ludlum’s original tale or stayed away from Bourne’s past altogether.

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