The Bourne Ultimatum

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


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.

Top 50 - #8 - The Passenger

I've talked about this film quite often before on the blog, and I now have an article (in Dutch, sorry) up at VersPers, so I won't go into a lot of detail here. Let it just be said Nicholson has rarely been better. And that this film is worth seeing over and over again.


My third Godard

Somehow, I almost feel like reviewing this film as if it was a CD, track by track, and only at the end trying to summarize my feelings about the thing as a whole. It's strange, because this film has much more of an overarching narrative than, say, masculin/feminin, and it's more coherent in tone as well than for instance L'Eclisse, yet at the same time it feels more like a collection of terrific songs than those movies. Take the Billy the Kid moment:

It's not entirely random (it foreshadows a later moment in the film), but it feels like an inspired little riff, a moment that could stand by itself, almost, without knowing who and what it's about. The Louvre sequence is another example, memorably paid homage to in The Dreamers. But the moment that suddenly made me realize I was falling in love with this film was the minute of silence followed by the dance sequence:

There is so much pleasure here just watching these three people move, each with their own thoughts and dreams and motivation but in this moment moving so beautifully together. If you want to be deep about it, it's a metaphor for cinema itself: lives and personalities converging for a moment to create a unit, forever united on screen.

I'm not sure I'll watch the film as a whole very often, though it's entertaining enough - as with all CD's, there are some 'songs' that just aren't that memorable or special. I am sure, however, that in lost moments this is one of the films to pop into your DVD player just to enjoy a single scene.