It's times like these that I wish I hadn't started using the "Fletch's Film Review: ___" headline for these reviews, as every review under the sun that I've come across for The Bourne Ultimatum has some terrible pun like "Bourne Again" or "Bourne To Be Wild," while I'm left out of the pun party. Damn it all.
Bourne To Run
Though I usually like to keep my reviews to myself (meaning, what I thought of the film), I also couldn't help but notice that quite a few of the reviews I'm reading are from people who are tripping over themselves lauding director Paul Greengrass for his directorial style. His use of handheld cameras is said to add realism and immediacy to the action surrounding the former amnesiac, as he (and the audience) cope with the struggles of being confused and anxious and - huh? Greengrass's style (aka "shaky cam") is overdone, overused and overtly nauseating. The use of handheld cameras in moderation can be wildly effective, for the reasons mentioned above. However, using that technique for the duration of the film is downright annoying. I fail to see how an over-the-shoulder (while epileptic) point-of-view is warranted for a meeting between two people in a restaurant. Additionally, am I the only one who finds the action impossible to follow, what with 900 edits of 6 handheld cameras for a 5-minute fight scene? I hope not.
Despite all the negativity I feel towards all that, I enjoyed Ultimatum in spite of itself (as I did with the previous film in the series). Though there really isn't all that much in the way of story in the Bourne series, Matt Damon has always made for an appealing anxiety-ridden action hero, and the co-stars have always been top notch character actors. In fact, they're probably the defining aspect of the series. Much like more or less every known British actor on the planet is featured in the Harry Potter films, so it goes for the "serious American character actor over 50" for the Bourne series (Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, David Straithairn, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, Brian Cox - okay, so maybe the last two aren't American, but they can lay on a mean American accent, and have done so for much of the last 10 years). If you need an FBI/CIA/NSA type, take your pick.
Also co-starring once again is Julia Stiles, the only actor besides Damon to appear in all three films (not counting Franka Potente in flashbacks). Why Stiles is included this time is a bit more of a mystery - sure, her character plays an important role in Bourne's past, but the use of Stiles as an actress is bizarre to say the least. Though she's onscreen for a good 15-20 minutes, she's given about as many words as well. In the rest of her scenes, her apparent direction was to "stare at Matt with a slightly confused, slightly scared, constantly bewildered look" upon her face. I couldn't help but think that her character became a mute in a scene that was left on the cutting room floor. Weird.
This movie doesn't deviate much in terms of either story, tone or execution. Jason Bourne, while clearly not the clueless soul he was in the first film, still doesn't have all of the pieces of the puzzle that is his past all worked out. Paddy Considine (In America) plays a journalist who stumbles upon a keyword that's bigger than he could have ever imagined - the only problem is that he's the only one that doesn't realize the significance of his findings. So begins the cat-and-mouse chase: bad guys after Considine, Damon after him, bad guys after Damon, as the films globe trots all over Europe and into New York. The action pieces, had they not been rendered useless by the shaky cam, are top notch and full of unbelievable-yet-still-believable technology and tactics. This is the Patriot Act come to life.
In fact, Greengrass takes the opportunity on multiple occasions to slip past the amnesiac story to make parallels to our modern times, with Straithairn even going so far as to reply "Until we've won" to a colleague asking him just how far he and his team are willing to stretch the laws. Additionally, he gives off a very Decider-like "with us or against us" mentality, as the slightest questioning of his motives become suspect behavior, and that in and of itself is worthy of a death sentence. He's one of the nicest bad guys you'll see in a movie of this sort, making Chris Cooper's version from the first film appear to be a real sunavabitch in comparison.
Fletch's Film Rating: