On Second Thought: “The Bourne Ultimatum”

Three strikes and you’re out! Okay, not the best phrase to use, but whatever. Some film do end up with three strikes, but don’t quit. So, no, it’s not always because your third film sucked, but because the trilogy set out to be made, has now been completed on a high note! That’s the trouble with films these days, they don’t know when to stop. Some sequels are needed to tell a full story, but after a point, it’s no longer about that.

The Universal Pictures film “The Bourne Ultimatum”, is a non-stop thrill ride that just goes, goes, goes, and takes you in all sorts of directions as it weaves its compelling story.

Matt Damon (“The Zero Theorem”, “Elysium”), Julia Stiles (“The Mindy Project”, “Blue”), David Strathairn (upcoming “American Pastoral”, “The Blacklist”), Scott Glenn (upcoming season “The Leftovers”, “Daredevil (TV series)”), Paddy Considine (“Peaky Blinders”, “Miss You Already”), Edgar Ramirez (upcoming films “Hands of Stone”, “The Girl on the Train”), Albert Finney (“Skyfall”, “The Bourne Legacy”), and Joan Allen (“A Good Marriage”, “The Killing”).

The film was directed by Paul Greengrass (Green Zone”, “United 93”) and written by Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Supremacy”, “The Bourne Identity”), Scott Z. Burns (“Last Days (Short 2014)”, “Side Effects”), and George Nolfi (“Allegiance”, “The Adjustment Bureau”). It is (loosely) based on the novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum.

The film originally opened on Aug. 3, 2007. It would go on to be nominated for three Academy Awards, winning three; six BAFTA Awards, winning two; and one Screen Actors Guild Award, winning one among other nominations and wins.

The final original film. The last film in the trilogy, which is also the best, has arrived. It’s another film that I’ve definitely not seen in some time. If I had, I’d have remembered the big continuity error at the beginning of the film, that not only took up most of my first page of notes, as I wrote so big out of frustration, but drove me insane! I spent so much time thinking about it and I think it actively delayed me getting through the film. I’ll just say now, as there’s no proper place to mention this, but this is the one part of the film I absolutely hated. I was able to get past it, but I had to first think about it and wonder why the writers approached the film this way. Did they know they were going to do another sequel? Whatever it was, they could’ve handled it better, and it wouldn’t have made me become so distracted.

That being said, of course, as expected, I absolutely loved this film!

So, since I don’t know how to do this one, I’m just going to wing it. Well, sort of wing it. This is the best film in the original trilogy and I think I’ve narrowed down the one element that makes it so all the way through. It’s the energy. Bear with me, I’ll do my best to make it make sense.

Right away you’re thrust into the start of the film, and while it’s a major continuity error, it’s still coming at you full force! You don’t stop until the Moscow sequence is over. Then, just when you think it’s safe to breathe, the CIA reveals that it still wants to hunt for Bourne. This then sends you forward, but for a different reason. Something I may have missed in the previous films, or didn’t feel played a major role. Emotion.

Yes, there’s always been human drama, which again there was, and this time not just Damon’s Bourne, but Stiles’ Parsons, and Allen’s Landy. They all shine in this film and reveal so much about themselves. It’s why, by this film, they’re absolutely likable, and may even be some of your favorite characters. But back to the other type of emotion. It’s the reasoning and approach for the CIA hunting Bourne that brings out this emotion. I was amazed at how bothered I was at the reasons Glenn and Strathairn had for pursuing Bourne. Then, as we discover, it turns out Strathairn is absolutely a villain. This is the first time I feel we’ve had a straight up villain. Allen, in the previous film, was doing her job, but with facts that were actually wrong and pointing in the wrong direction. When she saw the truth, she corrected her course and even learned some things too. Strathairn, never did. He had one agenda, and needed to accomplish it at all costs.

Strathairn’s mind set, his tunnel vision, actually leant itself into why this film’s energy carried through consistently, and why I actually felt tired after these big sequences. Action is obviously nothing new for this series, but somehow I feel there was a major difference between this film and the previous one. I think this lies in the fact that these action sequences, were considerably longer. I didn’t time them, so I’m not sure, but they certainly felt longer. Certainly more action packed. Adding to this, is the fact that these sequences always bled outwards. They’d begin before the sequence themselves and bled a bit afterwards. This essentially built the tension before hand, and then allowed for the action to shoot off and take you along at high speed!

Helping, on the technical side, to make this possible, is everything we got from the previous film. It’s the reason why Greengrass is highly regarded. He took a good first film and made it even better! The camera technique of putting you in the action came back, but I feel like this too was even bigger. I noticed so many more clever shots being used, which always had me in the moment. It’s why I find the lengthy Tangier sequence to be my favorite. Mind you, I think the fact that they shot in Tangier helps, too. Also the film’s editor helped a lot.

Because of Greengrass’ desire to put you there and build suspense, you get a film that actually makes you fearful. Again, the Tangier sequence comes to mind. Stiles’ character is in danger. And while I was fully in the moment, I actually couldn’t help but wonder if she’d get out of this alive. I remember thinking this same thing when I saw the film nine years ago. It’s still there. Same with Allen’s brief moment of trickery, which was also one of many moments where she was a total badass! The reason for this, is again Strathairn’s villainous character. He just supplied you with so much more, including thoughts on the legality and morality of Blackbriar, which as we see, doesn’t end so well for him.

Oh! And I almost forgot, but I feel I should mention it anyway. Even the hand to hand combat sequences seemed to come off as more intense, especially when Bourne is fighting Desh. Yeah, it beats either of the other two big fights that Bourne has. We know he’s skilled, but clearly this assassin is even more skilled than Bourne. He’s a formidable foe and it certainly makes for a much more brutal fight, which also (sort of) makes you a bit more fearful than before. One wrong move and Bourne’s done.

Returning to help make all things more and continuously intense, exciting, and suspenseful once more, which is what also carries you through, is John Powell’s (“How to Train Your Dragon 2”, “Rio 2”) score. It’s still what I love about the whole franchise, but what stood out the most with the last film. This time, it was just go, go, go! He once again utilized a lot of different instruments, and even seemed to infuse some of the various countries they filmed in. And of course, it allowed for all the scenes and sequence to have that new sense of danger, as well as familiar feelings of suspense. Anything could happen, which is probably what I thought when I first saw this film. So glad for Powell as he definitely helped take this film to bigger levels of success.

When you’re ending a film franchise, or a trilogy, the primary focus is delivering a final film that will please the fans. It’s a tough thing to please the fans, but it can be done. The creative team has to be the best. There’s also a lot of understanding that needs to be had, otherwise, any execution could flop. Any one thing could mean the success or failure of a final film. This is an action thriller, which is hard on its own, but as the story’s got more and more complex and needed to rely on smart storytelling, the creatives gave it their all. While we may be getting another sequel to this franchise, which we may or may not need, and may not do a whole lot for the franchise that’s been going for over a decade, it’s good because fans and newbies can explore the original films and see what can occur with the right creative team.


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