All hail the glorious return of plot!
After a summer that has been high in excitement and wonder, but low in terms of the important things such as plot (unless it happens to be based on a book) we finally have a film that seems to break the rules of current blockbuster filmaking; it has characterisation, it has plot, it has a sense of pace – and all this from what is the cheapest of the summer tentpole movies. In short, The Bourne Ultimatum is possibly the film that those of us that find those things important have been waiting for.
Essentially once again it is one long chase movie, but this doesn’t mean that it needs to be dumbed down to the level where it just feels like the plot is just a means of connecting the various set pieces. Instead, the plot naturally becomes the set pieces (which are spectacular) which is where the true meat of what is going on occurs. The dialogue has a nice thirties hard-boiled feel to it, but never becomes a gimmick.
Sure, a lot of it is indecipherable technical speak – but it sounds convincing and you get a sense of what is happening. However, the real joy is in the characterisation – for a character that says very little Bourne is someone you really root for. Sure, he’s a complete death machine – but he’s a death machine that is in touch with his feelings. After the spectacle of New Bond its refreshing to have such a competent killer that feels emotionally vulnerable.
Other characters have just enough sketched out about them to become real, even if it is just “long term agent in over their head”. And for such a masculine film it is the two female leads (Joan Allen and Julia Stiles) that stick in the memory, both being amongst the few characters who stick to their ideals. Its refreshing to see strong female characters that survive not by trying to be one of the boys (Angelina Jolie – I’m looking at you), but by simple fact of thinking about the situation they are in and reacting accordingly.
But the real star is the director and editor, Paul Greengrass who has managed to craft a film that doesn’t let up from the first minute. The pacing is a thing of beauty, just when you think it cannot possibly get any more frenetic it gets shifted up another gear. No matter how much you’ve seen the adverts, trust me, you haven’t seen the best of the numerous action sequences – all testament to the huge stunt crew who for once outnumber the technical boffins in charge of CGI.
Like Die Hard 4.0 it has that old fashioned, hand built quality to it but never resorts to nostalgia. It feels cutting edge in its documentary approach and the questions it raises (this is a film with little praise for Western foreign policy). Greengrass cut his teeth with gritty British TV dramas and it shows in the way in which things aren’t casually explained to the viewer – you either keep up with it or don’t (although then you’ll still enjoy the set pieces).
In short, go see.