random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

REEL REVIEW: The Bourne Ultimatum ****


PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action.
1 hr. 51 min.

written by: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi & Tom Stoppard (uncredited); based on characters created by Robert Ludlum
produced by: Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall, Paul L. Sandberg & Doug Liman

directed by: Paul Greengrass

Matt Damon in Universal Pictures' The Bourne Ultimatum

Around the time I had heard that Matt Damon had been cast as Jason Bourne, the action-amnesiac hero of Robert Ludlum's novels, I went and bought used copies of all those novels. Not because I wanted to prepare or familiarize myself with the Bourne world, no that wasn't why. It was for my wife. I knew she liked Damon (as do I) and I thought this might be something we could both get into. Now, I'm fortunate enough to be married to a woman who likes an intelligent action/suspense (as well as war movies...woo hoo!) She wound up devouring each novel and would keep me up to speed with what was going on with Bourne. So far, we've loved each of these somewhat-related film adaptations and having recently seen this recent sequel, we both agreed that it would be fine if they ended the series with this film....or maybe not. It's just that good and would be a perfect end to it all but we wouldn't mind visiting this world again.

When we last saw our CIA-trained, assassin hero in "Supremacy" he was still chasing the McGuffin introduced in "Identity". You'd think taking a common plot thread like a character tryin' to figure out how he got to be who and what he is and who is responsible for his past and present state would be a lil tedious. Nope, not in these movies. Anything but. At times it's kinda complicated but if you pay close enough attention it all comes through. All three of these movies can certainly stand viewing apart from each other but one obviously benefit from the character development in watching all three.

This film starts out with a battered Bourne (played once again to steely perfection by Damon) recovering from that now-legendary car chase through Moscow at the end of the last film. The event seems to have jarred loose some memories that we see as he hazily digs these images up from the back of his mind. I'm thinking with all these jarring auto bang-ups, he outta remember everything already! Those glimpses of the past, plus his fury over the murder of his girlfriend Maria in the last film, make him more determined than ever to learn who's responsible for all this, and to deliver the appropriate punishments.
Bottom line, he's ticked and he wants to see this to the end and that means going to the beginning. This is a sublimely uncomplicated film in which Bourne tries to find the truth and the people who have the truth try to kill Bourne. Real easy. That's the movie. As with the last film, direction is excellently handled by Paul Greengrass ("United 93") and written by Tony Gilroy from Robert Ludlum's novel. The movie is as lean, efficient, and ruthless as Bourne himself. while there's no need to 'get-to-know' Bourne (cuz he doesn't know himself) that's not the reason that the dialogue is used sparingly. This story needs to move and any exposition dialogue would just slow it down but what dialogue there is crackles with serious-spy-movie electricity. This movie is not kidding around, and that no-nonsense attitude during all the clever reversals and bruising fight sequences makes it a joyful thrill to watch.

Scott Glenn , Joan Allen and Tom Gallop in Universal Pictures' The Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne and the CIA become each other's enemies again when a London newspaper reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) publishes a story about Bourne that mentions a top-secret operation called "Blackbriar." The CIA, under the power-mad and slightly paranoid Noah Vosen (the great David Strathairn), furiously searches within itself to learn who the reporter's source was. Could it be from within or is it someone connected tio the CIA? Upon learning that Bourne himself may be involved, they bring in Pamela Landy (Chicago's own Joan Allen), the CIA operative who has dealt with Bourne in the past.

It only makes sense though that some in the CIA have become sympathetic to Bourne and his search for answers about who he was before the CIA trained him. Landy might be among his supporters, and so might Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a field agent whom Bourne re-encounters in Spain (How does this guy get around so much? Where's he get the funds?). Just when we might believe that Bourne doesn't needs a lot of help, she appears and in a palpable way that adds to his past. Like many other famous movie or TV spies, it would appear that Bourne is indestructible. Sure, trying to kill him only makes him angrier but Damon plays his action scenes on the edge of assuredness and desperation. He has the mad skills and brains of Bond, but without that part of the suave personality that lets him relax. Bourne can't relax. He does not engage in clever repartee with villains. In fact, I only remember him smiling at all once in the first film and that's when Maria (Franke Potente) made him crack one.

The film fits in smoothly and seemlessly with the previous two. I've like all three of them but I do see how they have improved upon each other in many aspects each time. Greengrass still favors the shaky camera style of photography that many complain about (hey, sit int he back then!) and he's quite fond of staging fight sequences without any music or other adornment. But, although there may not be any frenetic music playing alongside these well-choreographed fights, the sound cannot be missed. As Bourne ties to through ever thing at Desh (Joey Anseh) in a close-quartered duel, all the crashes and groans can be felt as clear as they are heard. Bourne used a magazine as a lethal weapon last time; this time it's a book and a towel that figure into his hand-to-hand combat, in a fight scene that's brutal and seemingly never-ending. Although, Greengrass doesn't even try to top the Moscow car sequence from last time around, there is a bone-crushing jaunt through downtown Manhattan that serves as a quite a follow-up.

Matt Damon in Universal Pictures' The Bourne Ultimatum

Some new players this time around are played with actors that fit right in with this series. The tip-top, shady head CIA Head Director Exra Kramer played by the always reliable Scott Glenn with delicious mystery. Bourne finds the man who hired him into this covert mess, Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney, always a delight) who actually tells Bourne who he really is and all about the program that he initially signed up for. I really enjoyed how Damon and Finney handled these scenes. In the finalle, Damon is cornered by everybody as he comes face to face with Paz (Edgar Ramirez) who tried to kill him previously. But Bourne is done in the end, he's just too smart for everyone. He knows what he wants now that he found out who he is and that's all that matters to him.

There are some out there that have actually complained that this is film is too similiar to the other two films or that it's just not the action movie they were looking for. Those who've enjoyed the first two movies might get mildly irked by how "Ultimatum" rarely tries to tread new ground in terms of storytelling, especially with a number of blatant homages that mirror classic scenes from the first movie, but it also ups the ante in terms of action, outdoing the car chase climax from the last movie with ease. Those who've been following the story so far shouldn't be too disappointed by the resolution that brings Bourne to New York City and answers many of the questions about Bourne's past and the program that changed him. Just think of these three movies as one long six hour film that takes you on quite a ride, literally.

As I mentioned, if this is the final film in the series, I'm totally cool with that. "Ultimatum" is brings closure to Bourne's search for answers. It does this satisfactorily, and we realize that the scarcity of dialogue and lack of information about Bourne's pre-spy life doesn't really matter. Bourne has somehow become a real, flesh-and-blood, fully developed character despite anything these movies may lack. The series has been surprisingly carried by Damon's stern somberness, plus his ability to use just his eyes and face to speak volumes about his character's thoughts, vitalizing the screen. In a summer full of disappointing threequels, it's nice to know that at least one franchise knows how to deliver the goods by replicating the thrills of the first two movies by sticking to a similar formula while answering the burning questions that have kept so many people interested for so many years. That's why if this isn't the last one....well, I'd be fine with that too.

The Skinny:

  • During one of the scenes in the New York CIA office, a picture of Donald Rumsfeld can be seen on one of the computer monitors.
  • It took six weeks to film the climactic car chase in downtown New York City.
  • During the final car chase in NYC all the cars are going 35 MPH or lower. The NYPD was afraid of pedestrians getting hurt and wouldn't let filming crews go any faster.
  • A copy of Bill Clinton's autobiography, "My Life," appears on the bookshelf in Vosen's office.
  • A copy of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, 'Long Walk to Freedom', can be seen in the office above Clinton's Autobiography.
  • Release prints were delivered to theaters in two parts, each with a fake title. Odd numbered reels were labeled 'Umber'. Even numbered reels were labeled 'Buum'.
  • Among the files Bourne takes out of the safe and Landy later faxes is that of a terminated agent. The photo is of the actor Richard Chamberlain, who played Jason Bourne in a 1988 TV movie version of ‘The Boutne Identity’.
  • The film crew were unable to shut down Waterloo station, so pedestrians in the station can be seen looking and pointing at the camera.
  • SPOILER: Jason Bourne's final line in the film: "Look at us. Look at what they make you give.", mirrors The Professor's (Clive Owen) dying words in The Bourne Identity (2002).
  • SPOILER: Operation Blackbriar, the main focal point of "The Bourne Ultimatum", was originally introduced in "The Bourne Identity". Near the end, Abbott (Brian Cox), who is before a congressional review board, explains how Treadstone was a failure (closes the file) and then moves onto Operation Blackbriar.
  • The movie was filmed in multiple locations including New York, Morocco, Spain, Germany, France, the UK and other locations in the US.
  • "Extreme Ways" is the name of the song by the Techno artist Moby (which can be heard in the above fan trailer) featured as the end title theme for all three Bourne movies. A new version of the song was recorded for The Bourne Ultimatum, and released on the film's soundtrack. It was originally featured in Moby's studio album 18, released on August 29, 2002, it was released as the second single from the album. It is also featured in Disc 1 of the American release of Go - The Very Best of Moby.
  • The premiere was held in downtown Oklahoma City on July 31, 2007, at Harkins Bricktown Theaters to benefit The Children's Center, located in suburban Bethany. The film was shown simultaneously on three screens. Damon was at the event to greet guests.
  • The film was released on August 16, 2007, in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Singapore.

Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass behind the scenes of Universal Pictures' The Bourne Ultimatum

Universal Pictures' The Bourne Ultimatum

1 comment:

The Rush Blog said...

"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a good movie, but I feel that it was overrated. I get the feeling that Greengrass exaggerated the action even more to deflect the obvious flaws from the audience.

Moving Pictures


About Me

My photo
Believer. Brother. Son. Nephew. Cousin. Friend. Husband. Father. Colleague. Student. Teacher. Illustrator. Actor. Director. Singer. Improviser. Listener. Observer. Passenger. Driver. Tourist. Traveller. Imaginative. Resilient.