Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

SPOILER ALERT even though you probably know what’s going to happen without seeing the movie.

I loved THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM even though I know I shouldn’t. The beauty of the picture is that it has a million flaws and I just didn’t care. I loved it anyway.

Usually an action hero struggles for the first three-quarters of the movie. He gets the shit beaten out of him. He fails in his quest. He’s humiliated. And in the very end he somehow miraculously draws upon some hidden reserve strength and saves the day.

Not Bourne. From the first frame of the film he is like Popeye after downing the can of spinach. Nothing or no one stands in his way. Ever.

I didn’t care.

Superhuman strength at times. Fine. Survives horrific car crashes without a scratch (Not just one but like eight). No problem. Leaps from a twenty story building on the Westside of Manhattan, lands in the East River (forget that he has to clear that little thing called the FDR Drive), and survives.

Sure. Works for me.

Director Paul Greengrass’ action sequences were so well done you actually felt you were in the middle of them. Actually it’s what I assume happens to all tourists in Tangier and Moscow and Turin so I had no trouble making the buy.

Bourne somehow has an unlimited amount of money. Doesn’t everybody? He can enter any restricted building or office without being detected. Natch. It’s only the CIA’s secret headquarters. It’s not like he’s trying to get onto the Paramount lot.

The best villains are the ones with style and dimension. Bad guy, David Strathairm sneers when he gets out of a car. He orders civilians killed. He invites Joan Allen to breakfast and doesn’t stand when she arrives. Still, I loved him. Joan Allen played the Laura Linney/Hope Davis interchangeable part of stick-up-her-ass CIA Director. That role has bored me in seventeen other movies but this time thumbs up.

Our government apparently has surveillance equipment everywhere. Fifteen cameras can follow anybody anywhere. Handguns have video cameras. (It's the new Canon Cannon) The Waterloo train station in London? More cameras than Fox used on the Superbowl. It seems we can monitor every cellphone in the world and do. Yet, we can’t find Osama bin Laden in over six years. Okay, it’s a stretch but I’m confident one day some nerd in Apopka, Florida will discover him on Google Maps.

In the first two BOURNE films Julia Stiles had maybe six lines total. This time she was on screen for a good twenty minutes and still had maybe six lines. Every time Bourne asked her a question she just answered with a reaction. Their scenes together felt like Penn & Teller. Still, I dug her.

Matt Damon is immensely charming and believable. Jack Bauer without the angst, James Bond without the ego, John McClane without the AARP card. For me he effectively carried the movie, leaping over the logic holes as deftly as he did the rooftops in Tangier. And when I’m having fun I don’t mind as much that he can speak 195 languages and know everyone's phone number.

Critics are calling THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM an adult thriller, an intelligent action movie. What it really is is THE AMAZING RACE with guns. I highly recommend it… although in five years I’m liable to watch it again and think “what a piece of shit.”


wcdixon said...

Bourne was the best time I've at in the theatre this summer...which either doesn't say much for this seasons crop of films, or my summer. Probably both. But still highly entertaining.

Michael said...

Apparently a lot of credit should also go to Dan Bradley, the second AD who's behind a lot of the action sequences, at least according to
this article
in the LA Times. And here's more evidence that Matt Damon is a great guy.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, you people hate America. Haven't you heard - Bill O'Reilly has issued the opinion that this movie is bad for our country because it paints the CIA as being evil scheming murderers. So stop liking it right now and if you haven't seen it yet, don't.

Richard Marcej said...

Did I see the same movie as you?

The film lost me when Bourne is able to walk right into the NYC main offices, with no problem, walk into the director's office, again with no problem, phone the director, tell him he's IN HIS OFFICE, hang around for a couple minutes looking over the stolen files, than casually walk out the building?????

Or even worse, when the director realizes that Bourne's in his office, what's the first thing he does? Aborts their mission THEN phone's the office telling them that Bourne has infiltrated.

I realize that we the viewer should suspend our belief with films like this, but come on! If the enemy is stupid why should we give a damn about the hero?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Ken - I know what you mean about hating this film in 5 years. I frequently have this problem with action films, no matter how much I love them at the first viewing.

Tragedy + Time = Comedy.

Action Movie + Time = Cheese.

I wonder why that is?

Chris said...

It's a cliche but damn my eyes if it wasn't true this time: I was on the edge of my seat for this film. And maybe it'll look cheesy in 5 years, but the first one has held up very well in the intervening years.

Warren Fleece said...

This Damon fellow... are you saying he's a better Bourne than Richard Chamberlain's 1988 TV version?

Rob said...

The fourth movie will eliminate the globe trotting ways of the Matt Damon character and be set in the United States.

Its title:

Bourne in the USA

It will be followed by a trip to Africa in Bourne Free and one to the jungle in Bourne to Be Wild.

Anonymous said...

Is what jd says true? Did Bill O'Reilly really say that? That the movie is bad for our country because of how it portrays the CIA?

Anonymous said...

The diminutive, snub-nosed, feline-looking Matt Damon as Bourne? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

I thought you swore off summer blockbusters Ken

Dave said...

I had two reactions to the movie. (Well, three, but one of those was that I liked it, so that one doesn't count.)

1) About halfway through I wondered who would win a knock-down, drag-out between Bourne and Jack Bauer. I gotta go with Jason; Keifer is too tortured by his love life.

2) It ended, and I turned to the wife and said, "Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where there are consequences for the CIA doing that kind of stuff?"

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

Thanks for the spoiler alert. I rely on not being smart enough to guess the end of movies I haven't seen, and I deeply resent when somebody just assumes that I am.

Anonymous said...

Pitting wits against the Waterloo surveillance...very nifty game of live chess.

The decoy ruse with the oscillating

Never-ending use of the "jitter cam" effect...came close to inducing motion sickness. C'mon, give a fella's eyes a chance to relax once or twice.

The rest of the movie...tired old cliche. Rogue spy fighting corrupt superior(s) to expose Secrets. And succeeds. Again.

And just what brilliant, gleaming source of justice and power employs the Dirty Secrets to take down the heads of the CIA? In this day and age, I can only figure she faxed the documents to Superman.

Anonymous said...

Bourne had flaws? No way. Amazing film though, easily my favourite of the year. I don't think a film in recent memory has made me rant so much. I was out of breath as I explained it's awesome to my sister. So much awesome.

Anonymous said...

Here's a second vote for some credit going to Dan Bradley. I've been lucky enough to see Dan's handiwork up close during production of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and even had the chance to drive some of his more innovative equipment. So let me refer everyone to two well-aged articles I've written about him and his Go Stunts team.



And take a look at the Go Stunts web page at

By the way, how come none of the airbags deploy on any vehicle in that movie?

"Yojimbo_5" said...

I came out of Bourne 3 thinking I'd just seen Bourne 2 again.

Bill O'Reilly is actually Frank Burns with a talk show.

Anonymous said...

He didn't have to clear the FDR. They chose the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center (whew) as the location of the jump. The FDR goes under these buildings. Bourne would have only had to clear a narrow pedestrian sidewalk below.

Here's a link to the isometric view of the building on MS Live:

While their were plenty of feats that strained credibility, hitting the East River from that building was one of the lesser ones.


Anonymous said...

It's okay to pick out a few flaws/holes that defy realism in the film. But to judge the film as a whole on these shortcomings is a shame. It did seem a bit preposterous that Bourne could break into the CIA headquarters undetected and start poking through files. But hey, Greengrass was not directing one of his documentaries. This was a motion picture, albeit an action film. Let's keep our expectations in check. Let's also not forget the remainder of the film, which I put up there in the same class of any action film I've seen in 20 years. I cannot remember the last time I went to a film and felt an adrenaline rush like I did watching Bourne Ultimatum. The non-stop, quick-cut style of Greengrass, coupled with that marvekous score, was brilliant. I have to say that it was my favorite film in recent memory. I've seen it three times, I loved it.