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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007)

Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Albert Finney

Written By: Tony Gilroy (also screen story), Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi

Directed By: Paul Greengrass

The Shot

The Bourne Ultimatum is a fast paced action extravaganza… that makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve seen the two films that came before, and at that point, it feels like a rehash.  Of course, if you’ve seen the first two already and enjoyed them, then you’re already invested and might as well keep going with this one.


The Highball

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEESE HOT DOG.

It’s hot and it’s tasty and who really cares what it’s made of?


Pairs Well With...

HEINEKEN.

There’s just slightly too much across-the-Atlantic class for me to say “Budweiser,” but it was a near thing.

“You start down this path, when does it end?”

“When we’ve won.”


There are two ways to look at The Bourne Ultimatum.

The first way is to do so as a pure action movie fan (which is what the majority of critics and audiences and even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences appear to have gone with, based on general commentary, success, and awards).

Looking at it through this lens, The Bourne Ultimatum is an exciting adrenalin rush.  The globe is trotted, and everywhere Jason Bourne goes, trouble follows.  And I mean that literally, because someone is always chasing after Jason Bourne.  Or he’s chasing after them.  Or each one thinks it’s his idea to chase the other so they end up chasing in circles, maybe grabbing a few third parties along the way just for fun.  So in case you haven’t guessed, if you like chase scenes, this flick is loaded with them.  Running down streets and up claustrophobic stairwells.  Running and jumping over rooftops.  Stealing a cop car and smashing through New York.  A motorbike through Tangier.  All punctuated, of course, by fist fights, gun fights, and “let’s see how we can turn some found objects into weapons” fights.  Zoom-zoom, vroom-vroom, bang- bang.  And if you’re the sort to let an Oscar sway your opinion, it’s all damn well edited.

And hey: action hero Matt Damon!  And intense moral compass Joan Allen!  And quietly determined Julia Stiles!

Honestly, do you even care if the story makes sense?

If the answer is “no,” then The Bourne Ultimatum is an awesome thrill ride.  Enjoy the rush, and have a good night.

If, however, the answer is “yes…”

…then that brings us to the second way to look at The Bourne Ultimatum, which is with one's brain engaged above the stem and eyes out for detail.

Looking at it through this lens, The Bourne Ultimatum will make very little sense to anyone who hasn’t seen both of the films that preceded it.  A few basics are hinted at, but there’s just not enough detail to truly follow things without that extra four hours’ worth of experience.  Of course, those who have had that experience will find that a lot of The Bourne Ultimatum feels like a rehash of things that were already dealt with in the first two films anyway, so ii turns out that this is a threequel which in terms of forwarding the franchise’s major narrative arc doesn’t actually go anywhere.

In fact, the niftiest piece of editing done in The Bourne Ultimatum is splicing the first two full acts of the movie in between what was supposed to have been the original ending of The Bourne Supremacy and the “weeks later” coda that was added on to that flick at the last minute to appease test audiences. In effect, audiences are still watching the second film almost the entire time that this one is playing.  It’s a deft feat of writing, but the mechanics of pulling that trick represent the movie’s creative highlight.  (With that said, how about the futurecasting of someone leaking top secret US Government information to a reporter from Britain’s “The Guardian” newspaper years before Edward Snowden did exactly that?  Spooky, eh?)

Come to think of it, does Jason Bourne look like he really gives a damn about the stuff the story says he gives a damn about, or does he look more like he’s just following the script?  Much as I like Matt Damon in this role, having seen the first three Bourne movies within the space of two weeks, the difference between his performance here and in The Bourne Identity is very noticeable.  Once upon a time, he was all into the deep character stuff.  Here, he’s too busy concentrating on doing as many stunts by himself as possible.  Still a fun enough result, to be sure, but the depth and sophistication that defined the original film for me has definitely taken a seat in the far back row this time around.

And yet…

The Bourne Ultimatum is an excellent example of why I don’t give numerical ratings for movies anymore.  There’s just too much wrong with it and there are just too many things missing to justify anything other than a mediocre or even low-mediocre rating.  But perhaps specifically because I’ve seen the first two films in the series so recently, I’m willing to just let those lapses go and just enjoy the ride with this one.  To me, the solution is obvious: don’t bother with The Bourne Ultimatum as a standalone, and buy the series box set instead.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2016


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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