A 'Bourne' Classic: The Ultimate Film for the Spy Genre

At last, a trilogy that actually did not disappoint. Compared to the bombastic grandeur of summer trilogies on offer this year, the ‘Bourne Ultimatum’, the third film in the trilogy based on Robert Ludlum’s famous anti-bond character Jason Bourne, offered audiences a gust of fresh air. It presented audiences a piece of modern cinema that was rare to see this year, and what a piece it was. Crafted with pure perfect pacing and thrills, the ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ is not ‘James Bond’ with the latest Jaguar car or Ethan Hunt with his latest gadgets that makes him fly from the ‘Mission Impossible’ movies. No, ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ provides action with intense realism, much more down to Earth scenarios and characters, and that makes audience feel more involved and attached.

Heighten this realism with pin-point velocity and editing from the helm of director Paul Greengrass, the ‘Bourne’ experience lets you breathe for a moment and chokes you with excitement at just the right moments, let’s you go again for sufficient gulps of air, and chokes you again with the next action scene. This experience is consistent throughout the film from Moscow to New York, and it is wonderfully put together to form a complete action piece that is truly thrilling and stylish.

Stylish in a sense that it is not flamboyant, i.e. no casinos or fancy cars, but the camerawork crafted by Paul Greengrass made ordinary objects and common action pieces become extraordinary. Paul shot the movie scenes mostly at street level and he successfully managed to encapsulate intense suspense and sheer adrenaline in each camera frame. The realism is magnified by the use the shaky-camera effect (although nauseating at times), but that effect effectively placed audiences virtually right next to Jason Bourne, and that realism as mentioned is achieved. Stylish and realistic, the action scenes are in no doubt in my mind, pure class.

Albeit the plot is thin like an average TV episode of ‘24’, the film turned out so well and that is a testament to the skills of Paul Greengrass. Paul, also the director of the second film ‘Bourne Supremacy’, which arguably started the ‘realism’ wave in action movies (i.e. Casino Royale), truly created a film from an ordinary substance into a film of pure masterwork in editing, pacing and directing of an action movie. If this momentum of excellence continues, it wouldn’t be long before his name will be elevated alongside with master action directors such as John Woo and Michael Bay.

Although substance in plot maybe lacking, but whatever Paul Greengrass has on his plate, he makes the most of it. He churns out ordinary situations into something that is smart, demands your attention and never makes it corny. The scene to look out for is Jason Bourne’s pursuit of a contact under enemy surveillance set amid the bedlam of people at Waterloo Train Station. It starts as an ordinary pursue on foot to reach Bourne’s contact for information, but it evolves into a chase to avoid enemy capture of the said contact, and it reaches into a drawn out pursuit of thrilling mis-direction and clever evasion tactics that eventually forms an exceptionally thrilling action sequence. It must be seen to be believed, for no words can truly describe the design that Paul Greengrass had crafted with such pulsating finesse.

But to credit everything to the director would be somewhat an injustice. Fine performances from its supporting casts Joan Allen and David Strathairn that puts them both in confrontations of political power plays with each gives the film an interesting subplot, and not forgetting the lead actors Matt Damon and Julia Stiles giving performances that are solid, believable and as good as ever. In particularly sublime form is Matt Damon, having mastered the character’s low-key but ruthless approach down to a fine art.
People may say that ‘Bourne Ultimatum’ will be the last in the series, whether true or not, this third installment can confidently stand as the best and deservingly justified as a final chapter to the ‘Bourne’ legacy. In my mind it is the best and most refreshing spy/secret agent movie thus far, and will confidently re-invigorate the spy genre to new intensities yet again.

Verdict: 9 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

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