9.12.2007

The Bourne Ultimatum


My review (as always, in Dutch) is up now. And I'm quite proud of it, to be honest.

(updated)

Now, for some reactions to comments (I hope you don't mind they're all in English):

@Rene: the first Bourne already shared little with the book that originated aside from title and premise. By this installment, the books and films are an entirely different beast. I have to say, I think I read two of the books, maybe even all three, and all I can remember is some business about a killer for hire with a Spanish sounding name and that I didn't think they were all that good aside what the first film retained: a main character who didn't know who he was, and more importantly, whether he was one of the good or bad guys. Since they already departed from the books so much, and they pretty much invented the entire plot for this one anyway, I see no reason why there could be no more films.

@Nancy: I totally agree that Ultimatum is inferior to Identity plot-wise, and that they were clearly struggling for a plot here. However, I don't think the films have much to do with plot, and kinetically, this one if the best of the trilogy. As for wafer-thin plots to propel possible sequels, I can think of a couple, for instance the CIA and Bourne reluctantly working together to catch someone, followed of course by the inevitable betrayal of Bourne by the CIA etc.

@Lani: thanks for the compliment :-)

And now: as per request, a shorter version in English:

Jason Bourne is often said to be a James Bond for our times, but what does that say about the time we live in? The old JB was maybe rebellious sometimes but always a part of the system, while the biggest enemy of the new JB is the CIA, the American counterpart to Bond's MI-6. In the Bond films spying is seen as necessary to protect the ignorant citizen while in the Bourne films the government has for overshot its purposes and the constant surveillance is presented as something creepy.

Bond may have been a spy, but staying undercover was hardly his strongest point. Bourne, however, truly is the man in the shadow, invisible due to his everyman's face and neutral clothing, someone who expertly avoids all the camera's that crowd our world today. Even Greengrass' camera seems to have trouble following him. Bourne often is seen only in the periphery, and the camera dodges back and forth to get a grasp on him, zooms in, zooms out, goes out of focus and back in. You have to simply undergo the chaos and disorientation for a minute or five to get into the rhythm, but boy, it's some rhythm you've gotten into, then. The ADD-editing and soundtrack fully pull you along in this adrenaline rollercoaster (a phrase, incidentally, which nicely alliterates in Dutch).

(followed by some blabla about the plot)

(something about how this film is, of course, not about the plot, but about the paranoid atmosphere and being on the edge of your seat)

Unfortunately, Greengrass thought it necessary to delve into the moral swamp of Bourne's motivation. In first film, Bourne had no idea if he was a good or a bad guy before his memory loss, and that's exactly what made his character so fascinating, especially since the answer seemed to be "pretty bad". In the second film, he was driven by something we can all understand: revenge. In the third film, however, the body count climbs mostly because Jason dear has some nightmarish flashbacks, and though he kills mostly out of self-defense, it nonetheless seems a bit slim a justification for the high body count. Greengrass seems mostly interested in how good or bad Bourne was before his amnesia, in finding out if he was forced to become a killing machine or whether he volunteered.He thereby neatly skirts the more tricky, but also much more interesting question: whether Bourne's actions now are good or bad: after all, we wouldn't want to confront the audience with their own championing of this bloodbath, would we. Thus, the introspection is limited to a few shots of Bourne looking guiltily at his hands.

(some blabla about other flaws including plot holes and nationalism, but that this is mostly irrelevant because you only think of all this hours afterwards)

Conclusion: see this in theatres, and if the level stays this high, may Bourne live as long as Bond.



Ok, I'm afraid I'm all out of excuses to procrastinate now, my thesis beckons. I bid you adieu.

5 comments:

René said...

>>Natuurlijk is dit geen film die om de plot draait.<<

Toch is dat jammer, want het boek draait zeker wel om te plots... en mbt je laatste comment: ik mag tot aannemen dat dit de laatste is, de 3 boeken zijn verfilmd, de circle is rond...

(om me eens met films -- maar stiekem meer met boeken -- te bemoeien).

Nancy said...

Ik kan me wel vinden in je recensie, maar betwijfel of dit een langlopende serie als James Bond moet worden. Hoeveel films kun je maken over iemand die voor dezelfde organisatie op de vlucht is zonder monotoon te worden? Bourne Ultimatum heeft al iets van dat 'geforceerde sequel' gevoel en de ‘alternative (closed) endings’ op de dvd’s van ‘identity’ en ‘supremacy’ benadrukken dat de verhalen eigenlijk af waren (ze hebben sowieso weinig te maken met de boeken van Ludlum) en de producenten blijven twijfelen of ze nu wel of niet ruimte open moeten laten voor een sequel; Bourne zich steeds weer iets nieuws laten herinneren en dat gaan uitzoeken heeft iets kunstmatigs en ik denk dat het publiek daar vrij snel moe van zal worden. Wat mij betreft is ‘Ultimatum’ al erg zwak in vergelijking met ‘Identity’.

Lanchka said...

I thought the comparison to Bond was made primarily because Matt Damon at one point asserted in an interview that Bourne was way cooler than Bond (?). The premise of the films does not (to me) seem to stretch any further than it already has, although Hollywood has never been one to acknowledge the maxim "too much of a good thing."

@ Hedwig: Well, if I needed any more convincing to see this film, you did it. Erik will probably not object...although we may have to wait, given the circumstances. With this review it seems to me like you have found your stride and style :-)

cjKennedy said...

Care to post a summary of your review in English for an interested but ignorant American?

cjKennedy said...

Thank you for indulging me Hedwig. A nice review in any language, but you're right, 'adrenalineachtbaan' has a nice ring to it.