Friday, 17 August 2007
The Bourne Ultimatum
In the summer of a seemingly endless run of threequels and sub-par blockbusters, many film-goers have been left disappointed by the soulless cash-ins on display. Amongst the last of the blockbusters is The Bourne Ultimatum, the follow up to 2002's Bourne Identity, and 2004's Bourne Supremacy. Paul Greengrass is back in the directors seat, and Matt Damon returns as the eponymous protagonist, Jason Bourne. The story of a CIA trained assassin with amnesia, trying to track down the people who engineered him in to the super weapon he is. Bourne is drawn out of the shadows by a journalist who publishes a story on him, and is soon being hounded by the government again. Damon is supported by a stellar set of co-stars including Paddy Consadine, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, and Joan Allen.
The film starts off with Bourne on the run, and the pace doesn't relent for the 2 hour running time. The key here is tension. It's all a big game of cat and mouse. At times, Bourne is the target, with the Government surveillance teams tracking him down, but he's just as likely to reverse the roles, and beat them at their own game. The hunt for Bourne takes place across the globe. Moscow leads to London, leads to Morocco, leads the New York. One is led to wonder how a wanted man can get on international air travel, yet that isn't important in the grand scheme of things. Any lapses of belief are vanquished by the solid plot and action. He doesn't wear expensive suits, deliver snappy one-liners, or bed any woman he comes across. All of these make him a more believable action hero.
As stated, tension is the key to this film. The traditional action scenes are frenetically cut, giving a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Hand to hand fight scenes provide relentless brutality. Some fights take place in such close quarters, that it boggles the mind how the camera crew managed to fit in there. While the previous Bourne films included 1 major chase scene, Ultimatum excels itself. Here, there is a free running inspired on-foot chase, a motorbike chase, and a barn storming car chase in down town New York. The ending of the car chase involves a chassis melting grind, which results in a major mangling. The film keeps the speed until the denouement, which, although predictable, still keeps the audience enraptured.
Greengrass has developed a film making style that thrives on the use of hand held shaky-cam. It serves to put us amongst the action, but it's also one of the major downsides of the picture. In the action scenes, it's perfect, but the speedy cuts continue during conversation scenes. No shot in the film must have lasted for more than 5 seconds. It's a mind boggling technique, which keeps the pace up, but it could be at the expense of a few audience headaches. Throughout the course of the Bourne series, Matt Damon has morphed into the major action star of the 21st century. He turns in a constantly tense performance, and looks beleaguered by the chaos around him. With his flexibility - he can star in any genre - it would not be surprising if Damon becomes one of the biggest names in Hollywood for years to come. But please Matt, let the Bourne series end on a high. It couldn't possibly top Ultimatum, the final part of one of the finest action series ever.