Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Movies and Television

Watching a movie again, it is really funny what you see the second time. When you can skip scenes at will to re-watch the best parts it is odd what happens. The Bourne Ultimatum is an excellent example, downloaded from the Apple store (though HD for my 24″ iMac would have been nice).

One would think the action and fight scenes would be the best for watching over and over again. YMMV but no, they are not.

Damon, Allen. Bourne Ultimatum. © 2007 Universal Pictures

Lots of headache inducing, handheld (by a guy on crack) camera shots that well, you know Bourne will win, turn out to be boring on second (and third) viewing. The techno-ramble scenes at least have dialogue, in attempts to advance the plot.

All the frenetic action really takes away from itself when piled on one scene after another as they play leapfrog around the world. This kind of script has to be an easy job for writers, as they do not have to write much of anything.

Mix equal parts of chase (foot, car or combo) with fighty fight fu, use the techno-speak Word Macro (borrowed from 24) for some computer room scenes, wash down with a little moody brooding. Repeat at loud, sound effects volume for 2 hours. Done.

The actors have so little to say, they barely needed to pack their SAG cards, esp. Damon and Stiles. David Strathairn and Joan Allen, basically just yell orders at computer jockey flunkies, but at least they get to say something rather than just gaze silently into the camera. No I am not calling for more expositional talky scenes; just a little meat to the story, plot and acting.

I liked the movie, liked Bourne’s dark journey trying to find out his past, get closure, blah blah. But things got skipped or went nowhere: when did hot boy London assassin get sent to NY? When did Scott Glenn replace the HITG-type playing Brian Cox/Joan Allen’s boss from movie 2? Where is the exposition about Bourne’s mad healing skills, which after all that jumping through windows and driving off buildings, he must have!?

Going nowhere: The throw away inside-the-CIA backstabbing plot just gives Allen more screen time, the retcon of the end of The Bourne Supremacy and the Albert Finney character. Okay that went somewhere; I fast-forwarded through the flashbacks since it was psychobabble and we kind of knew this already, except that young Bourne (nee David Webb) was nave enough to volunteer to be a trained killer. Spoiler: And very non-climactic as, when confronted with his tormentor, Bourne becomes all enlightened and chooses not to be a killer anymore, unless he has to. Shocker.

Damon, Stiles. Bourne Ultimatum © 2007 Universal Pictures

My biggest disappointment is the wasted opportunity with Julia Stiles‘ character. (Do not know from the books, and do not care.) All Stiles did was look moony at Matt Damon (tough gig right there), be vague, and stare at him with nothing to say: she had a crush, was clearly scared of the other hit men, but found him all warm and cuddly? And what??? Weak ass attempts at creating some random sexual tension, that’s what.

After the events of the first movie it would make sense that, even though not being a field agent, she would have upgraded her skills. Thus being a little better prepared for things in Supremacy so she could have maybe made a futile effort to escape Bourne, just to show some character evolution.

In Ultimatum I would have just liked to see her show some initial resistance to the office break-in: throw something at the office intruder (Bourne), be smart enough to carry a weapon and not just let someone drag her into the office without a fight. You still get the cliche “what are you doing here?” face off, just more.

Given the givens she should be better prepared for her continued work in the C-I-A!! Rather than tech-savvy, but otherwise helpless damsel in distress bullshit, I just expected more from the character. Jumping on the back of an uber assassin and grabbing at his mouth rather than clubbing him with something hard is… meh.

Especially in light of the possible set up of a future relationship with her and Bourne (the movie practically ends on her for crying typing out loud) you would think TPTB would have given Stiles more of a character to build on for oh, the non-Ludlum but potentially highly profitable 4th movie. Waste.

Final Snark: Watchable, but not sure about rewatchable.

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