Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

2007, US, directed by Paul Greengrass

The third installment in the Bourne franchise is even more stripped-down than its predecessors, with almost all extraneous material removed from what is essentially a two-hour chase movie, through multiple countries and toward the ultimate truth of Bourne's identity. Though director Paul Greengrass doesn't seem overly keen on comparisons with the Bond series - if press snippets can be given much credence - this film evokes the Bond heritage in ways both large (Bourne's almost comic indestructibility) and small (the brutal fistfight in Tangier that evokes one of the signature Bond matchups, that between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love). Visually, however, the film owes nothing to Bond: the hand-held urgency of the film adds to the sense of breakneck pacing, with the camera constantly changing angles, and sometimes thrown quite literally into the action (one car chase appears to result in the destruction of at least one camera). That's not to say that the filmmaking is unclear: that Tangier fistfight is clearly narrated, with a palpable sense of real, not comic book, violence between human beings.

On the broader level, Greengrass has to navigate a rather awkward line between two sometimes contradictory views of the CIA, presenting the agency's frightening, almost literally godlike, ability to track individuals through the deployment of a sinister array of resources as well as its striking vulnerability to attack from a well-resourced and determined individual. That, of course, is the reality of modern terror, though the message here is also about the manner in which the agency's moral compromises create - we can hope - fatal internal weaknesses, with its own officers likely to turn when the lines are blurred to an unacceptable shade of grey.

1 comment:

Justine said...

This is actually my favourite film of the year (although I count Inland Empire as 07'... so second sorta). My enthousiasm for the film extends beyond it's energy and action. I loved Greengrass' direction, and the underlying message about democracy, and the odd parallels to our current existence (the screening of all long distance calls comes to mind). My enthousiasm though, might be put down to the fact I have yet to see the other films. I've read others who were tired of the style Greengrass employs because they're already familiar with it from Supremacy. I really need to get around to seeing the other films.


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