Monday, August 20, 2007
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007) - Paul Greengrass
In the year of the three-quel, we've seen third parts of Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man, Shrek, and (although the title may suggest otherwise), Ocean's Thirteen. Sequels to 28 Days Later and Die Hard have arrived on screen. And, aside from a very strong offering in 28 Weeks Later, all these films have been rubbish. Empty-headed, cash in, disposable crap that have contributed to making 2007 one of the worst years in recent history in terms of film. It has been depressing. And now, another three-quel bursts onto the screen with the third part of the Bourne saga, The Bourne Ultimatum. And mercifully, this three-quel is not only the best of the series, but is a very strong contender for film of the year. All I can say is, thank goodness for filmmakers like Paul Greengrass.
The Bourne Ultimatum kicks off immediately after The Bourne Supremacy ends. Uber-badass, Jason Bourne is fleeing Moscow police after causing somewhat of a ruckus in a Moscow tunnel. Bourne states quite clearly to a trapped officer that his beef is not with him. He's no arbitrary killing machine. Bourne is a man with a conscience. Six weeks later, Bourne discovers his name in an article written by one Simon Ross, a journalist for The Guardian newspaper with a penchant for getting involved in situations way over his head. Bourne arranges to meet this journalist in order to start what may be his most personal vendetta. Bourne wants to know who made him what he is. However, the CIA aren't about to let their most dangerous rogue agent get too close to home, and CIA deputy director, and head of a project simply known as 'Blackbriar,' Noah Vosen wants Bourne's head on a plate.
What is immediately clear after watching The Bourne Ultimatum is the fact that with each film he makes, director Paul Greengrass becomes a better filmmaker. Doug Liman left the director's chair after The Bourne Identity and Greengrass took over helming duties for The Bourne Supremacy. In Supremacy, he delivered a far more interesting and exciting film than the predecessor, with star Matt Damon settling more comfortably into the role of Jason Bourne. In The Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass has upped the ante even more, and has made the best film of the series. Bourne goes all out to discover his roots. He has nothing left to lose and will go anywhere and do anything to finally discover who he is and where he came from. What is so compelling about the character, however, is he's a reluctant action hero. While James Bond is a remorseless killing machine, dispatching bad guys with a grin and a quip, Bourne just does what is necessary to get to his goal. He's not out to kill 'faceless Guard number two.'
Greengrass' direction is on top form here. His style is almost documentary-like, as seen in last year's superb United 93, and it is in full effect here. He uses handheld cameras and a frenetic editing style that is chaotic, but keeps the action fresh. In particular, one close-quarters fight sequence in a Tangiers apartment, is as chaotic as it is violent. But it's to Greengrass' credit that even the scenes that don't feature this almost trademark style retain a nail-biting tension. When scenes aren't as action-oriented, the film still keeps you on the edge of your seat, a true mark of the director's talent. There isn't a car chase that matches the climactic one in Supremacy in this film, but there are still some fantastic chase sequences. There isn't a moment in the film that leaves you bored.
The cast, as expected from the series, doesn't have a weak link. Matt Damon returns, obviously, as Jason Bourne, and has never looked more comfortable in a role. He's as tough as ever, while at the same time has the humanity that makes Bourne a compelling character. The support cast, once again, is filled by some brilliant character actors. The previous Bourne films had two excellent bad guys in Chris Cooper and Brian Cox. This time it's David Strathairn's turn to fill the role. Strathairn is a highly underrated actor, and proves this in another great turn as the ruthless Noah Vosen. Returning from the previous films are Joan Allen and Julia Stiles, both with more to work with than the previous films. Rounding off the cast are Paddy Considine (check out the fantastic Dead Man's Shoes) and the always great Albert Finney.
It's a pleasant change to have a sequel that isn't a steaming pile of shit. And it's even better to get one of those very rare things- a third film in a series that tops the previous two. But the Bourne Supremacy is exactly that. While I'm sure it isn't exactly a realistic portrayal of the CIA, Greengrass' style grounds the film with enough realism to prevent Bourne from looking like a superman. Greengrass is one of the most talented directors working today. While I'm sure this will be the last in the series, it's fitting that the film should go out in style. The Bourne Ultimatum is the best actioner of the year, and is definitely in consideration for film of the year. Fantastic.