By: Muneeb Arshid
When The Bourne Ultimatum was initially released in 2007, it concluded a trilogy of action films that were all lauded for their relatively complex storytelling combined with the unique camera work (especially with Paul Greengrass‘ “fine” work in the last two films). The Bourne Ultimatum was, at that time, the conclusion to Jason Bourne’s story, where he learns about his past as a secret government “assassin” asset.
We now know that is not the entire case, as there is a new movie out soon, but nonetheless, we can treat it as an ending of sorts.
The Bourne Ultimatum seems to begin right after the events of The Bourne Supremacy, however, as we find out, the film actually occurs in between the final two scenes of The Bourne Supremacy with the final action set-piece occurring after the final scene of Supremacy. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has acquired new information about a black ops program run by the CIA called “Blackbriar”. This was the program adopted by the CIA after “Treadstone”, the program which Bourne had the misfortune of enduring through his training. A reporter, Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) uncovers the truth about “Blackbriar” which finds him in quite a bother as Bourne is on his tail to get that information but also the CIA who want to “silence” him, possibly permanently. The person in charge at the CIA for all this “silencing” is Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), the Deputy Director, who seems to have quite a mysterious connection trying to rid himself of Bourne. Pam Landy (Joan Allen) is also back and is feeling the pressure of her actions in the previous film, essentially being cast away from the CIA and is forced to make rash decisions later in the movie, that for Bourne are quite beneficial, something that Vosen is not very happy about.
Essentially the film moves from one action set piece to another, locations of interest being Moscow, London, Madrid, Tangier and finally New York City. However, where this film succeeds is that apart from the final action piece, they are not all huge, bombastic affairs as we tend to see in many action films. Rather, Greengrass has made sure to employ the very nature of the entire series, which is the “one man versus all” with each set piece being a variation of Bourne versus “the assassin of the day”. The set pieces at Waterloo Station and in Madrid are intense and quite exhilarating, in a way that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, with an uneasy feeling of a slight unknown. Unknown of what is about to happen to the characters, unknown of what is to happen in the immediate future, it is safe to say that there are a lot of unknowns, which is wonderfully nice to experience in a time where films tend to employ Mr. Exposition, or simply Mr. Blow Everything Up (Looking at you Michael Bay). The stealthiness of the scenes creates a sense of tension which is quite the point of a proper action flick.
One of the criticisms of director Paul Greengrass has been his quite liberal use of shaky-cam for his films. Many people enjoy the way he uses the technique, especially with his older films, where people do accept it as something being quite unique, which cannot be said about more recent times, when many action films can be quite difficult to watch, with the amount of “shakycam-ness” that’s being employed. There is still a touch of finesse with the way that Greengrass employs the technique, which is less apparent in this film than it was in Supremacy. A lot of that has to do with the gripiness of the story, Ultimatum is able to completely engross the viewer with Bourne and his story of amnesia, whereas Supremacy was a little light on the story which made it more apparent noticing the shaky cam.
Also, like I mentioned in the review for The Bourne Identity, the non-use of any music during the action set pieces, especially the close quarter combat sequences leaving those scenes alone with the sound effects of the violence that is occurring. A notable point is the chase sequence in Tangier which lasts a good 10 minutes, yet the entire time, when Bourne is chasing an assassin who is after Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), no one says a word, the picture and the parkour do their talking instead. As if Greengrass left it so that you would see Bourne working in his natural element deciding what decisions to make by assessing the situation around him.
The Bourne Ultimatum works much better than either of the other two films in terms of both the story and the style. The plot is a lot tighter, especially working towards a conclusion of Bourne’s story. The plot being the way it is lends itself to the rest of the film, where the viewer is able to excuse any shortcomings that may have occurred. At this point, this is my favourite of the four films so far, with Jason Bourne being released in less than a week now.
This reviewer, from the TFL, grants The Bourne Ultimatum with a high grade of A- (8.6/10).