To say I disliked 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy would be an understatement. With a mediocre plotline that did nothing to develop the Jason Bourne character it also displayed some of the most horrendously shot action sequences I had seen.
I could not fathom why director Paul Greengrass would employ a camera style that bounced around so wildly that to see what was going on became an exercise in patience and concentration.
Greengrass is nevertheless a great director; last year’s September 11 biopic, United 93, proved that (and certainly redeemed him in my eyes) but as the release date for the third and final Bourne film approached I wondered if he would bring anything new to the franchise.
Sadly, there isn’t much to say about The Bourne Ultimatum: If you’ve seen The Bourne Supremacy then you’ve seen the latest effort from Matt Damon and company. The closing chapter in The Bourne Trilogy is a direct continuation of its predecessor (picking up after the concluding chase sequence in Supremacy) and hurtles along at the same pace and with the same frenetic (shaky) energy. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is, as always, on the run and the CIA is once again trying to kill him in attempt to cover up the past that created him. Not much has changed.
There is certainly more restraint on the part of Greengrass when it comes to the visuals. The handheld approach to camera work is still evident but seems to have been considerably toned down. Things do still get wildly shaky, once again often obscuring the action, but nowhere near as badly as they did in Supremacy. I was hoping for a complete change in style but this was not meant to be.
That said, Greengrass does craft some fantastic chase sequences (on foot and in vehicles) that will make you smile because of their inventiveness and Bourne’s quick thinking. However, these are so packed on top of each other that you, as an audience member, are given little room to appreciate what you have seen before the next chase begins. Some might argue that this is the whole point of an action movie – especially one with Jason Bourne in it – but I’d counter that it actually detracts from the overall impact of the film because it provides no breathing room.
Matt Damon, along with his fellow cast mates, goes through the motions in a robotic manner that not only indicates that he has played the Jason Bourne character before but that the franchise is stale. This is no fault of Damon’s however, but rather a script that is so focused on thrills that it forgets to tie up its loose ends in a convincing and rewarding manner.
The whole plotline is rather ‘wishy-washy’ and the origin of Jason Bourne is weak when you consider that you’ve sat through two previous adventures in order to get to a conclusion. The reveal – if you can even call it that – about Bourne’s past is tepid and nowhere near as involving as it should have been.
The Bourne Ultimatum is strong in the action department but weak in terms of story. Its only redeeming quality is that it brings to an end a film franchise that started off well but descended into mediocrity. Personally, I’m glad to see the last of Jason Bourne.