The Bourne Ultimatum
Ramchandra, a regular Filmstalker contributor, is attending some of the London press screenings for me and reporting back.
Recently he had the chance to see The Bourne Ultimatum, and between him being loaded with films to see and me stuck in the middle of the Edinburgh Film Festival, it's come out a little late. Still, if you're looking for a film to see this weekend then this could well be it, Ramchandra certainly did like it.
Prelude: The Bourne Series
In the modern era of action films, this series brought some ground-breaking change to the equation as it kicked off with The Bourne Identity back in 2002. I personally have noted many film reviews referencing the Bourne films as though they are now the standard template where it comes to espionage films. Though I wouldn't give it 'that' much credit, I certainly did much enjoy the Bourne Identity on its release. The baby-faced Matt Damon was more than met the eye.
Then in 2004 came The Bourne Supremacy, the mandatory sequel to a successful film, (especially where they already have further source material at the ready), which explored further the scarred character of Jason Bourne adding further depth and insight into his past. Or did it? Having not seen the films since their initial cinema release and discussing them with a couple of friends, surprisingly we found ourselves actually struggling to distinguish between the two.
We recalled that both were good enjoyable action flicks, and that there was a great car chase, some awesome hand to hand fighting and wait ah, that was it, the distinguising factor was some of that shaky camera stuff that was mentioned in every instance that I recall reading about the second film, but seriously I'll have to watch them again to actually refresh myself with what actually happened in them.
Normally I would have made the effort to watch them before going to see this, but Richard has kept my evenings and weekend schedule of film-watching quite on the busy side and so I tumbled along to Leicester Square for the screening for The Bourne Ultimatum feeling unprepared somewhat.
Rogue agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is being hunted by the people in the CIA who trained him to be an assassin. Still suffering from amnesia and determined to finally learn of his true identity, he is lured out of hiding to contact a journalist named Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), who has been following his story. Throughout his research, Ross has gathered valuable information about Bourne and the Treadstone project. This is rather inconvenient for U.S. government official Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), who is hoping to start a similar covert organisation.
With intent to kill Bourne and the journalist before they expose the program's disturbing secrets, Vosen sends agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) to lead the search effort. Simultaneously, Paz (Edgar Ramirez), one of the remaining living Treadstone assassins, is dispatched to find and neutralize Bourne and Ross. In order to finally learn of his true origins and find inner peace, Bourne will have to evade, out-maneuver, and outsmart the deadliest group of highly-trained agents and assassins yet.
Bearing in mind this is officially the year of three-quels, I expected yet another rehash of the prior Bourne films, whereby Jason Bourne stumbles across some information, follows this up, chases answers about his past, taking him from one country to the next with the expected as standard, hand-to-hand action fights, car chases et al, as I mentioned above, but with a higher budget to treat us with bigger explosions and more battered cars.
To an extent I was right, all the above ingredients are in the mix, but I got far more than I bargained for. At the risk of sounding like a spoiler, Jason Bourne finds some substantial answers this time round. This came as a bit of a pleasant surprise to me.
It seems mandatory that I say something about shaking-cameras that Paul Greengrass introduced to the supremacy. Well, either I've got used to it, which I sincerely doubt, or its calmed down. I'm going to discard the point with, yes, there were instances of jittery cameras involved but not enough to take you away from the ongoings.
Matt Damon has certainly come out of his shell, his confidence and enthusiasm comes across throughout. You're no longer thinking, "but he's just a baby-faced boy". You're thinking: He's pretty badass, I wonder how he'd fare against Jack Bauer or James Bond. (and so the battle of the JB's ensues, it's not just me I've been hearing about this all over the place).
A special mention is deserved for the spectuacular fight choreography of the film, the first major action scene in the film at Waterloo station in London, got the largest cheering from the audience as he took them all down one by one, with the surveilence capturing a snapshot of him in the process. "Oh my God, That's Jason Bourne."
Anyway, like any of the JB's in action, you do have to suspend your beliefs a little. the hero is going to get his way, no matter what, though obstacles there are, little is going to stop him. Once you get past that hurdle, you'll find this is one of the finest action thrillers out there, not only does it have you holding your seat with the tension throughout, but it also has a decent well-written plot.
I wonder if having Scott Z. Burns added to the screenplay writers would perhaps have a hand in this? Having not read the books I couldn't really say for certain, how much is source or how much is screenplay but not only does it escalate the ongoing chase of the prior films to a whole new level, but it also stands tall as a stand-alone film on its own merit.
Handled with a subtlety that the prior installments seemed to lack, I'd say whether you've seen the previous Bourne films or not, with ample doses of action, chases and thrills. This is by far the best action film I have seen this year, hands down!