The Bourne Ultimatum

Entertainment ad infinitum.

Released in 2007, certified UK-12A. Reviewed on 28 Aug 2007 by Craig Eastman
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I like the Bourne movies. I like them a lot. I don't necessarily buy that Paul Greengrass is "the finest director working in Hollywood today" as so many fawning pundits would have us believe of late, but I do think he's upped the ante a fair old whack by taking the good work laid down by Doug Liman in the first movie and raising two potentially average potboilers to the limits of their latent specific heat capacity (get those high school physics jotters out and recogniiiiise, beyatch). The Bourne Ultimatum, as the last of this summer's "threequels", has several odds stacked against it. Obviously there's the expectation that snowballs off the back of the first two offerings in the franchise, but that's always going to be tempered by our old friend the Law of Diminishing Returns. Secondly, it's difficult to market spy thriller fare as an event movie these days, Mr. Bond excepted, and in a summer where piss-poor nonsense like Pirates 3 and Spider-Man 3 have each somehow managed to rake in the GDP of a moderately sized developing African nation it's realistically going to have to compete on quality and cost-to-yield ratio rather than outright box office gross.

The good news is that it looks like Jason Bourne's third and, presumably in a "presume nothing: this is Hollywood" way, final outing is doing just that. By the time you read this it's domestic and international box office takings will be doing just fine, thank you very much, and very deservedly so that is. Mind you, while I acknowledge that this is mass entertainment done in just the way we here at The Oneliner constantly bemoan the lack of, I do have several gripes to wrestle before I can rest at peace and allow you to go and watch this immensely enjoyable film in comfort.

I would assume that a large proportion of the people going to see this will at the very least have seen one if not both of the previous movies, both of which are very enjoyable indeed. If that's not the case and for some odd reason you were only able to choose one of the three I'd say go for Ultimatum. As a stand alone movie there's very little to fault it, and without knowing too much of the character's back story (let's face it: he still doesn't have that much by this point) you can pretty much dive in and enjoy it for the frantically-paced thrill ride that it so clearly is. Greengrass has done a fantastic job of elevating the art of the superficial, and for all the talk I hear of this movie's cultural and political relevance to current global affairs it is, like it or not, a cookie-cutter modern chase movie. What sets it apart is the craftsmanship involved at every level.

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My gripe with the overly kinetic documentary-style camerawork aside ("loose on the ball" is sooooo hot right now darling), everything about this latest Bourne oozes slick like an Exxon tanker dashed off Alaska. The pace is relentless from the film's opening frames which literally pick up right before the second film actually finishes (don't worry, you'll work it out) through to the final revelations as Jason, or more accurately David, comes home to the people who made him the fine, upstanding killer he is today. There's barely a dull moment, and for a film that's the best part of two hours long that's a hell of an achievement, and even more so when little compromise is made to the necessary level of character development. I could complain that the actual "revelation", when it arrives, is actually not much of a revelation at all, but that would be missing the point: The Bourne Ultimatum is a ride, and as long as you get off feeling satisfied the odd lull is irrelevant.

That's not to say that everything is perfect and rosey mind you, because here's my point: if you have seen the other two movies first then you might just agree that in the context of the trilogy Ultimatum takes second place to Supremacy in terms of rounded product. I say this because for all of it's good points I can't help but feel that a whole lot of Ultimatum is lifted all but verbatim from the previous movie, and I don't just mean the one significant moment near the movie's climax where the two intentionally overlap. Most notably among a number of coincidences is the now obligatory "mental car chase" which ends in exactly the same fashion as Supremacy's effort, right down to Bourne contemplating shooting his now crumpled quarry as he lies hunched, bleeding and incapacitated behind the wheel of his mangled motor.

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Still, it's kudos to Greengrass again as I suspect a large number of patrons will be so dazzled by the pace that they fail to notice such blatant copy and pasting. As cynical as I am of such things I really did enjoy myself so much that for once I'm not going to hold it against anyone involved, and at the end of the day it's still a good car chase. Not only that but you get an excellent market chase, rooftop chase and subsequent centrepiece one-on-one fisticuffs with a now fitted-as-standard household item improvisation that run together to form a middle act which is pretty much worth the price of entry alone, never mind the excellent train station evasion segment that closes the first reel. And all performed without computer trickery. Stick your ropey CG "Sand Man" in your pipe and breathe deep, Mr. Rami...

Nobody, but nobody is going to leave this movie feeling hard done by, and if I could only have left this summer feeling the same way about a handful more movies then I would be in a much better mental state than I can currently claim. There should be no underestimating the feat of this film: a third entry in a franchise that many will argue is the best, with excellent performances, brilliantly choreographed mayhem and a pace that would put a cheetah on speed riding a Honda Fireblade across the top of a moving bullet train to shame. At a time when admission prices are so ridiculous it's not often I find myself uttering the following words, but Ultimatum really is worth the price of entry. Check it out.

Paul Greengrass
Cast list:
Matt Damon (Jason Bourne/David Webb)
Joan Allen (Pamela Landy)
David Strathairn (Noah Vosen)
Julia Stiles (Nicky Parsons)