Saturday, December 22, 2007

REVIEW: The Bourne Redundancy

The Bourne Ultimatum

Just Watched:
The Bourne Ultimatum

My Rating:
4 Stars

This one was very good.

Ultimatum returns to the familiar feel of Identity in this film. From now on, when you look up "thrill-ride" in the dictionary, there will be a scaled down picture of the movie poster for this film (just like the one above) next to the definition. Most good action movies take you for a ride and keep you in a constant state of suspense because you don't know what's going to happen right around the corner. The poor movies don't do this: the movement is plodding, the plots are set-up cheaply & are wholly predictable, and the entire experience is just stale. Not so here. Remember how fun Identity was the first time when you could hardly remember where you had just been, could barely figure out where you were at the time, and had no idea where you were going??.... but you couldn't wait to get there! This movie does that, too. If it is an experience you seek, this is your film.

Now, I'm about to get really critical. I may be splitting hairs here, but that is what separates the magnificent works of art from the "very good" films.

Scoping His Prey
Bourne, Bourne -- he's our man! Why don't we send him to Afghanistan!
The first thing that holds me back from letting loose the coveted "iii 5-star rating" is the same thing that held back Identity: QUESTIONS. We are left with more questions than answers. Hopefully without giving too much away... why is Julia Stiles' character so drawn to Bourne's? Why was Bourne so willing to forget his former identity in order that he might be conditioned to become Jason Bourne? Could Jason Bourne kill both James Bond & Jack Bauer? The artist, I'm sure, would say that this is merely true to life: our's is an existence that asks many questions & answers few of them. Poppycock, I say! Art imitates culture, sure, but I also look to art to make a point, portray a view, answer a question. Supremacy didn't do this. Minus ½ a star.

Another redundant feature of this movie was our final view of the character of Jason Bourne as a tragic figure who is asked to sacrifice too much for the cause. I really didn't enjoy this theme the first time I saw Matt Damon portray it in The Good Shepherd. I really didn't care to see him emphasize the point again. Apparently our culture is supposed to be one where no one gives more than society's arbitrary standard of self-sacrifice allows. (As an aside, perhaps the scandal of the cross in contemporary culture is the very simple notion of self-sacrifice. I'll be meditating on this, & I'll probably be preaching on it soon, as well).

Finally, and once again from the Redundant Department of Redundancy, the architects of this film reach back to the trusty & reliable first in the trilogy for a theme: identity. In a deleted scene, before a Senate committee in a hearing, the director of the CIA explains the primacy of ethics in espionage relative to the USA keeping its identity as a noble nation. In the film, Jason Bourne relentlessly chases clues toward the end of discovering his identity. Other agents furiously chase other clues toward the end of discovering exactly what the CIA really is at the tip of the sword. The entire trilogy is somewhat of a morality play about how it is what you do in life that defines you. Wait a minute! That was Batman Begins! Minus another ½ a star for lack of imagination & theme infringement.

Matt Damon even joked about the repetitive nature of this film franchise, joking as a guest on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" that the fourth movie would have to be named "The Bourne Redundancy." Some clever people have already filmed & released the trailer for the fourth Bourne film.

Four stars. Not great, but very good. It is certainly a must-see.


Jordan said...

This lengthy comment should probably be its own blog post (and might in the near future), but you hit the Powell family movie nerve.

First 4 (not 5) I think is the correct rating. The plot was too interwoven into modern CIA politics for my taste. Also, this movie introduced major new key players that did not exist in the previous two. I did not like that.

The good points:
1.The holy crap moment when they weaved it into the last movie.
2.The ending the trilogy with the same water scene that it began with.
3.The action as always is great.
4.The inabilty to get up and take a bathroom break because you can't find a lull in the movie. (I love this)

As a side note, The Bourne Identity is one of my top 5 movies. I saw it 5 times in the theater. I read the book as well. The next 2 movies are not even close to the books. Oh, and the book is 10 times more bloody than the movie.

All in all, this was an excellent adaptation from the books from 1970s espionage to modern day technological warfare.

III said...

You reminded me of another thing that I took issue with on a "suspension of disbelief" level. The first movie was released in 2002. The final movie of the trilogy was released 5 years later. If the time line in the films followed real life (which, we have every reason to believe it did, as one can notice some aging in Matt Damon between films), then Jason Bourne has to be at least 5 years behind on a lot of CIA trade-craft and protocols. I'm sure that there are ways to stay current on SOME technological developments, but still. Come on.