Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

I love action movies, I just prefer them to have a modicum of intelligence to them. A mindless, pointless action movie...for instance, many of the Kung-Fu genre...might have its charm but really, what was more enjoyable...the taut technological thriller of Mission Impossible (1996) or the chase/crash/explosions that replaced the plot of Mission Impossible III (2006)?

It is only fair to point out...I did enjoy MI III but nowhere near as much as the first...or even second which, while inferior to I still had more plot and suspense than III.

With that said, when The Bourne Identity (2002) was everything I look for in an action movie. It had suspense, an intriguing and interesting story line, mystery, intelligence, believable and intense action scenes, and managed to do all that while making sense. There was no dodging of bullets with superhuman speed or anything like that which makes no sense in the world created. I don't object to those things when they make sense...for instance, in the world created for The Terminator (1984) it made perfect sense for Arnold to take a shotgun blast without being knocked down or to involve himself in a car crash and walk away unscathed. Those were the rules and physics established for that world. It makes much less sense in a world where "real life" physics are supposed to be in play...for instance, in xXx (2002) when Xander Cage bunny hops a motorcycle over a 15' tall barb-wire fence it makes no sense...he is supposed to be living in the "real" world. It is just so stupid it removes the suspension of disbelief and turns what could be a great action movie into a so-so bit of cinema.

When The Bourne Identity rolled around it created a believable world. Everything looked and acted familiar. There were no instances where you looked and thought, "Oh, this is an alternate universe."

It continued in The Bourne Supremacy (2004) with a solid storyline, believable action sequences, and characters you cared about. They were well-rounded with motives that make sense for them as people instead of as plot devices.

With such a strong background I was really looking forward to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). It had the same solid pedigree, from being based on Robert Ludlum's novels to the same solid actors...this is a movie that cannot fail to meet my expectations of a good action flick.

The story line is solid. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) wants to know who he is and why he became a killer. Noah Vosen (David Stathairn) is afraid Bourne can blow the cover off his secret, illegal, and by inference, highly unethical training programs. The unstated thesis is the program has gone rogue while trying to follow its charter, a sin of execution rather than intention. And that leads back to my earlier assertion...these are complex, believable characters. Vosen is not a stereotypical villain, out for personal money and power. He genuinely is trying to do his job, protect the country, and be a great citizen. He simply has lost touch with our mores and core beliefs.

This character taps into the current political climate with the over zealousness many people perceive with wire-tapping, torture, and a host of other intrusions on things we always believed were rights that the current administration seems to view as privileges. 10 years ago this character would not have been as apropos.

Alongside that, the acting is outstanding. Damon becomes Bourne. It is easy to see him as Jason Bourne, not Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne. Contrast that with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Nicky's role in this movie seems to be two-fold; 1, to create a continuity with characters Bourne interacts with face to face and 2, to get Julia Stiles screen time. That time is Julia Stiles playing Nicky Parsons, not Parsons inhabiting the world created for movie-goers. Fortunately, her stilted appearances are few, far between, and do not detract from the overall experience. She provides a great plot device to maneuver Bourne into a fine through and above the streets chase scene that ends in a fight that would have been much better with better camera work. Director Paul Greengrass fell in love with a jarring hand-held with jump-cuts galore that left you mystified as to what was happening in the fight. Despite that quibble it was a magnificent scene.

There were a few moments in this one that had me scratching my head. For a series that started so intelligently, there were some reality and physics defying moments that simply did not fit. Bourne slams his car into reverse through a concrete wall off a parking structure...and walks away. In fact, he is impervious to car-crash related injuries. While the parking structure crash was hilarious, it did not fit with the carefully structured world I was enjoying, nor did the final Toureg v. Police Car crash at the end.

Plot wise, the one disappointment was they were too heavy-handed in revealing how deeply involved the CIA director was. What should have been a shocking revelation was given away quite early in the movie.

Those minor quibbles aside, it was a very, very entertaining and watchable movie. Its watch ability was somewhat hurt by the unbelievably high standard set by the previous two entries in the Bourne franchise but it was still a very good movie that any action fan can walk out of glad they went to see it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great movie,Great review