Shake, rattle and roll with “The Bourne Ultimatum”
The Attention Deficit Filmmaking (ADF) technique deployed throughout the third and purportedly final Bourne film “The Bourne Ultimatum” almost does it in. Almost being the operative word. Despite the vertigo inducing camera shaking, CIA amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) takes us on one heck of rollercoaster ride and nearly two hours of non-stop action. The adrenaline rush the film produces disguises a rather thin plot line and helps the viewer overlook the near suffocating air of self-seriousness. Okay, we get that Bourne doesn’t want to be Bond. With his plight as a man with a murky past, a fugitive present, and slim hope for the future, there’s little time for winking humor, but can’t the guy (or anyone else in the film) crack a smile once in awhile?
Apparently not as this installment picks up where “Supremacy” ended as Bourne learns of a new Gov’t program Blackbriar that may have replaced Treadstone, the botched CIA brain scrambling assassin training of which Bourne was the pilot candidate. By uncovering the spooks behind these top secret programs Bourne hopes to find his identify and an explanation to his nightmarish flashbacks.
The dizzying pace kicks off with a head spinning international travelogue covering cities all over the globe: London, Moscow, Turin, Tangier, Langley, New York, Madrid and for no significant reason. This is globetrotting for the sake of globetrotting-nothing in these sequences really explains or furthers the plot. When the film gets down to its real purpose-ferocious cat-and-mouse thrills, terrific close-up hand-to-hand combat, and the de rigueur car chases– two of which are absolutely gasp provoking-“The Bourne Ultimatum” is at its blunt force trauma best.
Supporting cast is fine- especially veteran actors David Straithern and Joan Allen. Their inexplicably critic pleasing dead pan acting is actually used to credible effect here as the humorless CIA bosses-one who wants Bourne dead the other not so much.
Then there’s Damon-one of the few young actors whose range, gritty appeal, boyish good looks and stature provides hope as a suitable replacement for Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan and other aging icons. Tom Cruise can’t look 35 forever, can he?
On the one hand director Paul Greengrass (United 93) should be congratulated for giving fans what they want. Though old school spy film devotees would say “The Bourne Identity” remains the best of the trio, “Ultimatum” improves upon the unnervingly scattered “Supremacy.” One can’t help but wonder how much better many scenes would have been sans the shaky shutter-do great action sequences really require frenetic embellishment?
Rated PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences.