The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007)

Let’s not beat around the bush – The Bourne Ultimatum doesn’t have what can be traditionally construed as a script. In fact, the film is basically five chase scenes strung together, but as a continuation and evolution of both Greengrass’ hand held style and the series’ kinetic motifs, The Bourne Ultimatum works beautifully as an engaging upgrade from the overwhelming nature of Supremacy. For starters, the action in Ultimatum walks a fine line between lyrical madness and chaotic incoherence, and Greengrass instills a sense of history in every punch, every growl of a motorbike, and with each crunch of breaking bones. Bourne, stoically played by the now withered Matt Damon, has come full circle since Doug Liman’s masterful first film, using his emotional and physical scars like a scalpel, dissecting the stagnant corruption of his C.I.A. handlers. The Bourne Ultimatum never lets up, and this might be it’s greatest asset. Greengrass uses little connective tissue between the chases, jumping cities with the quick ease of an edit and a wide angle establishing shot. Bourne, like the audience, is thrust from one place to the next without much preparation, creating an almost breathless pace, one which fits the hero’s desperate attempt to finalize his forgotten identity. I was completely taken aback by Greengrass’ stylistic departure in the second film, retreating from Liman’s glossy fluidity, enveloping Bourne in a frantic, quick cut atmosphere of change. In The Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass has found a happy medium between the two, and even though the story uses little to no character structure, the overall scope of the work goes interactive, a “where in the world is Jason Bourne” type mythology which pits him around every corner, in your office, invading the evils of the past to combat those of the future. The C.I.A.’s inability to chase down their own monster says a lot about our current state of global affairs, but Damon and Greegrass smartly focus on the personal – the idea of failed loyalty, sacrifice, and the realization of those failures in a violent way. Bourne has plenty to be mad at, but at the end of Greengrass’ latest, he changes quite drastically, and his shift affects those of his lethal ilk. Pretty amazing subtext for a Hollywood Blockbuster threequel.

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