Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Bourne Ultimatum

I may not have been as prepared as I possibly could have been for this. I enjoyed the first movie well enough, but never got around to seeing the second before watching this, the theoretical end to the trilogy. I just assumed (correctly, as it turns out) that since the first movie relied more on appearing to have a plot than on really having one, I’d be pretty safe, since I’m apparently not supposed to know what’s actually going on. It’s as good a plan as any, I guess.

This is the third film in the Jason Bourne series, coming out in a year which was not kind to the third movie of any series (with the lone exception, I would maintain, of Pirates of the Caribbean), and it’s to the film’s credit that it mostly works fairly well. The plot involves a bunch of nonsense about clandestine governmental groups all plotting out various assassinations, and we finally get to discover Bourne’s origins, only to learn that, yes, the man of mystery really isn’t nearly as interesting once we know his backstory. The owners of the Bond franchise would do well to remember this with their next film.

The action scenes are of course the important part of the film, and they’re done pretty well, I guess. There’s a heavy reliance on Shaky Cam, which is probably the single most painfully overused cinematic technique of the decade, but at least when it’s used here director Paul Greengrass (who’s a good deal better at making dramas than action films) makes sure we can actually still see what’s going on. There’s nothing here that reaches the heights of, say, the duel with the sniper from the first film, or any of the actions scenes from Casino Royale (or Die Hards 1, 3, and 4, while we’re at it), but they’re still competent, even if they don’t excel.

That’s really the main problem with the film. It’s competent, but doesn’t reach for more than that. Everyone involved in this film can and has done a good deal better than this, and seems to be here solely for the paycheck. There’s nothing really wrong with that, I suppose, but it’s not exactly doing me any favors here, now is it?

Rating: ** ½

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