Saturday, August 6, 2016

Before I Die #575: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

This is the 575th movie that I've now seen from the 1,177 movies on the "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working through. It is also part of a little Bourne marathon that I did over a couple of weeks. A review of the other films is forthcoming. 

Director: Paul Greengrass

While it is often the most acclaimed of the Bourne movies, this is actually the one that I had never seen. I can now definitively say that Paul Greengrass is not for me. Ultimatum hits its marks extremely well, but this type of film only holds so much interest for me.

Picking up shortly after the events of The Bourne Supremacy, this third film in the original trilogy has Jason Bourne tracing his own history in an effort to discover everything about his past. The movie relies heavily on the revelations about Bourne's true identity and the breakneck action that takes place between those revelations.

The plot is not the most creative one a viewer will find. We do get some answers about who Bourne was before being molded into a lethal assassin, but it is not the stuff of grand revelation. Also, it is no great leap to suggest that the U.S. government has a super-secret stash of soldier assassins. Nor is it a great leap to think that those who control these assassins might be at least a little corrupt or of questionable ethics. And yet the movie presents these to us as if we are still meant to be shocked by them. The pacing of the narrative is skilled, and the actors all play their parts well, but the drama seemed stale to me. This, despite the ever-moving, ever-panning camera and edgy music score. The movie felt to me like Aaron Sorkin telling a grim espionage thriller, but without his trademark snappy dialogue.

Blurry, frenetic fights and action are a hallmark of the
Greengrass Bourne movies. They can be very impressive at
times, but my tolerance for them is limited.
Let's face it, though - the Bourne series became popular due to its action, not a particularly intelligent plot or brilliant insights. Even I must admit that Greengrass and his camera and editing crew are exceptional at what they do. Choreographing and filming the fight and chase scenes must take an immense amount of planning and work. And being able to have such a dizzying amount of quick cuts, while still communicating the overall visual story, is no mean feat. There are several sequences that are very impressive, even to a non-fan like me. The proximity of the cameras to the intense hand-to-hand combat and inside cars that are speeding, crashing, and careening all over the road do create a sense of excitement at times. However, I can't help but get bored with them after a minute or two. And when such scenes extend more than a few minutes and take up around half of a film, as Greengrass's Bourne movies do, then my attention wanes. I will admit that this style is far superior to the overuse of slow motion (I'm looking at you, Michael Bay), but it is just not my cup of tea.

I completely understand why these movies are popular, and it is easy to admit that they are very well done, for what they are. They really are, though, a case of slightly more style over substance. This is fine when the style suits you, but this is not a style that suits me.

That's 575 movies down. Only 602 to go before I can die.