Sunday, September 23, 2007

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM MOVIE REVIEW













CAST: MATT DAMON, JULIA STILES, JOAN ALLEN, DAVID STRATHAIRN, ALBERT FINNEY, SCOTT GLENN, EDGAR RAMIREZ
DIRECTOR: PAUL GREENGRASS
RATING: *****
RUNTIME: 111 min.
GENRE: ACTION, THRILLER

Three years, three full years I have waited for this. The only other film I have waited with more desperation is Batman Begins and now The Dark Knight. The Bourne films have been my films, the exact kind of films I have loved growing up, the exact kind of films I’ll always hold dearest to my heart – my dad’s action films with sprouts full of smartness. And it is worth more than the wait. To expect to have a better time with your friends at the movies this year is almost expecting the unexpected; I can’t imagine any blockbuster coming any close.
Join the three films together and what they essentially are is a chase-game, an extended chase-game where the first moves are made by all-powerful CIA only to be hit back in the face by the one and only, Jason Bourne. He does make some moves of his own too, but essentially he reacts, and he reacts with breathtaking force with no one, absolutely no one – including the CIA, its assets, or we audiences – having any idea about how fast and how hard he will bring back the move (fight) back to the doorstep. To measure up to this challenge, and to entertain us over three films, sometimes leaving us clueless, not confused, what the next move will be, to be constantly intelligent, to be constantly thrilling is not what happens every year, forget everyday. The Bourne films are special films, much like the best entertainers there have ever been, for each and every character is embedded in our mind. These are chase films, and especially the last one which is just unrelenting in its pace, yet the characters leave an indelible impression.
Not a frame is wasted here; this is literally an action-packed explosion. As an action vehicle this is hands down the best film of the series; The Bourne Ultimatum with its methodical frenetic pace literally tells the audience – keep up or shut up, enjoy the build up and the wrap up. And yeah, don’t slouch but sit up – and delivers the goods like no film this year that has the word “action” in the genre category. The action set-pieces are probably one of the best ever conceptualized, the viewer is always guessing but is never lost. Some of the chase sequences are preposterous in that how the hell Bourne can survive, yet it is presented in a realistic way. The film isn’t realistic; it is trying to give the impression that it is possible. The rule for Bourne is simple, if he is aware of a malevolent variable in the equation he will survive. All he needs to know is the variable. The variables are always known, or at least we are given the impression that we know, for that is how we react with a big “awe” when the super-intelligent knows-it-all Jason Bourne makes a move, not blinking an eye, not flinching once. As Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) says in The Bourne Supremacy, they don’t do random, there is always a purpose. There is a purpose why Jason Bourne takes off the clothes hanging on wires and covers his arms with them while he runs on rooftops, there is a reason why he buys a new mobile at Waterloo – they are all awe-inducing devices, giving the impression of supreme intelligence and a superlative presence of mind.
I wouldn’t want to give the plot away, not the least bit of it. Of course, there is no resemblance between Robert Ludlum’s novel and the film except for the title. One interesting thing: one of the main CIA assets in the film, Paz is played by Edgar Ramirez (Domino) and of course Jason Bourne’s rival in the novel is Carlos the Jackal, in real life Illich Ramirez. Coincidence probably. All that the story starts off right where Supremacy ends. Although an action picture, this film, unsurprisingly for the Bourne series has shown such remarkable intelligence and awareness, follows a plot that feels like an insider’s look of events we read only in the newspapers. A journalist is killed in a Moscow elevator and that is all we get to know. What happened behind? Probably, Jason Bourne. Of course, it isn’t Moscow that is under the gun but Central Intelligence Agency and an Operation called Blackbriar that, we learn, is an upgrade on Treadstone. The script, by Tony Gilroy who has penned all the previous Bourne films, is once again a straight winner. Other action films have the antagonists surprised by the hero’s smartness, here they expect it and yet he manages to stun them, and stun us. We know he is smart and he’ll come up something really intelligent and yet he outsmarts us, managing to give more than ten-films’ share of wow moments. The one-liners are smart and always belong to the film with so many smart characters. The one-liners aren’t just of the sake of it; they represent the smartness of the world of the Bourne films. No needless attempts at being funny are made; the film lets the situation do the trick. You know you have written a good story when people remember the characters, even the minor ones. Given a choice between the book and the film, I’ll choose the film for it not only has a better story but a greater degree of unpredictability.
And, at the heart of it all, as it always has been, is that wonderful actor Matt Damon. Jason Bourne is James Bond, John Rambo, all rolled into one, a guy who is frighteningly quick and smart and the films expect it, we expect it. He is a superhero under the disguise of human clothes, yet Damon manages to make that guy a real person. A person we care about, a person we feel with. To convey that, with the barest minimum of dialogues and not-so-expressive expressions is a feat in itself. This is minimalist acting at its very best, only a great actor can pull such a feat. He pulls off one-liners with consummate ease, and they don’t feel like them, they feel wholly natural. In the process he has created one of the great characters of modern cinema, a character as enigmatic as Harry Callahan. And it is not only him; each and every one of those high profile names – Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, Julia Stiles – just demonstrate what quality actors can bring to a genre picture.
All of them inhabit this wonderfully smart world; everyone is extremely intelligent and the protagonist wins the game not because he is the only one who is smart but because he is the smartest. Believe me, James Bond will find the going extremely tough here, rather he doesn’t stand a chance.
Paul Greengrass makes a motion picture as brilliant as United 93 and follows it up with this one. Looking at him at work in Supremacy and here, it felt like a newer version of Sergio Leone who was mastering his art, mastering his method on the course of two films. He is making an action film, yet as in United 93, we feel the action is a mere backdrop for all the power games being played between people. The action is just incidental, just the means; the real struggle is going along someplace else which hasn’t been revealed yet. It is tough to individually praise a film’s departments; they are all individually brilliant but even more important is the fact is that they gel brilliantly together. All of them complement each other so well.
There is a lot of hoopla about the jerky camera movement in this film, and yes it does shake a lot. Coupled with the edits, there are a hell of a lot of edits, the film feels frenetic. Yet there is a method to the frenzy, as was the case with Supremacy. It feels everything – every move that is thought, every line that is uttered, every decision that is made – is made under the gun, on the edge. It makes the people feel smarter. It is a chaotic world, yet these people struggle for their survival and they thrive. Those who fail to think quick, in those shrunken timelines, are out of the game within no time. And that is the rule of the game in the world of Bourne films, not long overdrawn timelines like that of the Dollar trilogy where the tension is created by everyone being given ample time. And yes, as Darwin postulated, it is always a struggle for the fittest to survive. The world does stop, sometimes, to contemplate the death – of unnamed soldiers like Desh, of seeming traitors like Neil and of heroes like Jason Bourne. And it runs again, laden with the history of past. Some people struggle with it, others forget about it. Extreme Ways it is. Is it the end? I don’t know. They did end like it started, in the water with the silhouette. The silhouette that is Jason Bourne, the silhouette that his breed is in this world.
I don’t think we have seen the complete Nicky Parsons, she feels too manipulative and cold. And I don’t think Hirsch was exactly enlightening Jason Bourne, he was just smooth-talking him. It must have been a tried and tested talk, whenever the asset is under stress feed him that. There are a hell of a lot of open threads and they have been left dangling. And yet, it feels so complete. Is it the best of the series? I can’t say firmly. The first film was a make-no-bones intelligent genre film, the second one was a genre film breaking its way into something higher and the third is in ways a film that chooses to go the genre way hinting only at the higher aspirations. I don’t know if it is a good thing or a bad thing but I have had the time of my life with these Bourne films, probably the best three-set films I have seen, along with the Dollar trilogy and the Mad Max films. And if it is indeed the ending, I couldn’t have hoped for a more befitting one. And yeah, just so I didn’t happen to mention, it is hands down the entertainer of the year.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you call this a masterpiece though it is a five star movie.

Anonymous said...

The camera movement is jerky but it also gives the feel of a thriller.I loved the cinematography by Oliver Wood....it's commendable.Though I have one question,why did they change the story (screen story by Tony Gilroy).Was it necessary?

The Ancient Mariner said...

for me this is a masterpiece...although i still rate the first one higher