(2007) dir. Paul Greengrass
viewed: 08/29/07 at AMC Van Ness 14, SF, CA
Part three of the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Ultimatum, has been getting a lot of good reviews and good word of mouth. I liked the first one, director Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity (2002) quite well at the time that I saw it. And I liked The Bourne Supremacy (2004), director Paul Greengrass’s first pass at the series, when I saw it (which was apparently while I was not updating the Film Diary. I thought that the second one was pretty solid, but also somewhat forgettable. Greengrass has been getting a lot of critical attention lately, stemming from these two Bourne films, and his film United 93 (2006) about the crashed airplane of September 11, 2001, which I think, like many people, that this was a likely born disaster of heart-swelling patriotism or something. Now, I’ll probably feel obligated to see it. Anyways, Greengrass gets a lot of praise.
The praise is worthwhile. The Bourne Ultimatum, the last of the series(?), is a solid flick. Matt Damon’s performance in these films has actually made me begrudgingly appreciate him. This is a series of films that would actually stand well to watch in a row. I was always struck by the opening shot of The Bourne Identity, the body floating in the sea, shot from below. That image is recreated in the ending of this film, a nice echo of the first, and a good way to tie them together and add cohesion to a narrative that actually does develop through the films and stories unlike so many trilogies or series of stories.
Bourne suffers from amnesia, and finds that he is a highly trained killer, created by an arm of the U.S. Government as a super-operative assassin, and his quest for his identity drives him to uncover the dark shadow cabinets that developed a lethal and soulless murderer. His identity is to reclaim his humanity and to understand why and who he is. It’s an interesting notion, not overly analyzed by the films, but just inherent to the narrative, the nature of man, the ability to kill without remorse, to act without thinking, to follow orders and be almost an automaton. It is, in a strong sense, what the military asks of its inductees, part of the function of duty and patriotism. To follow, obey, and trust the government and not question things.
The film is action-packed and tense throughout, kept on a racing pace by the soundtrack. I do have to say, though, that I hated the camera-work. The jostling hand-held camera work that became so popular in the 1990’s adds to the feeling of news camera perspective and keeps the nature of the film constantly moving, even when things slow down. In some places it’s effective for editing, but others it’s just a mess. Some of the best action sequences are so harried that they are almost unintelligible. It actually annoyed me throughout the film. Quite a bit.
But this is a good flick, a good series, a lean and interesting, intelligent action franchise. And as good as it is, I hope this is the last film.