CrankyÕs Flickershow Reviews
By Neil Richter
The Zephyr, Galesburg
The Bourne Redundancy
ŌThe Bourne RedundancyĶ was an actual title jokingly given to The Bourne Ultimatum by its director, Paul Greengrass. In all honesty, heÕs not that far off. The joke encapsulates all that is both good and bad about the film. Lets start with the good. The Bourne Ultimatum is by no means a failure. It sets a goal for itself and more than meets it. There are chases, shootouts, fights, and even an explosion or two if youÕre into that sort of thing. In fact, as far as summer action movies go, its pretty darned good. Everyone has been falling over themselves to call Paul Greengrass the next big thing in action cinema. You know what? TheyÕre right. HeÕs an expert technician, one of the only directors who can use a handheld camera for nearly every shot of a film and not make the audience nauseous. This is no mean feat, and it pays off in dividends when it comes to maintaining a breakneck pace. IÕm not going to lie; the film lives up to the hype when it comes to action and excitement. Apart from a few brain-dead theatre patrons who felt it necessary to text message back and forth throughout the film (It must have been really important, because the glare off their phones could have signaled a helicopter) everyone stared wide-eyed at the screen for the entire running time.
My problem is indeed not with the action. No sir. My problem comes when I consider that this is a franchise-ender. At least for now, there will be no more Bourne films. This closes the trilogy, and with it the saga of Jason Bourne. As someone who has viewed all three films, when the lights went up after Ultimatum I found myself sitting there, eyes glazed over. Is that it? You see, The Bourne Ultimatum is a film without a plot, just like all of the other Bourne films lacked plots. Somebody is put into a position to pursue Bourne, and Bourne likewise is put into a position to be pursued. Then the roles reverse back and forth for awhile as the body count rises. ThatÕs all well and good. I like mindless destruction as much as the next guy. The thing is, this particular Jason Bourne movie has even less of a plot than the previous plotless films. This is a bewildering concept until you actually view the film and see what IÕm talking about. The end result is that the series has a complete lack of closure. I know that the cool thing to do these days is to leave a few loose ends because, you know, life is like that. However, here practically nothing is tied up. We are treated to a thirty second coda after the last action sequence, followed by an ambiguous final shot. Its almost as if the producers were afraid to actually end the film, lest they get the opportunity to make more money off a fourth Bourne movie in the future.
You still may be incredulous. I sympathize. We all paid to see Bourne break some arms and maybe see some wanton property damage in exotic locales. We got that. So why am I complaining? Well, when it comes down to it I find that a little character development goes a long way in an action movie. An explosion becomes more than an explosion when it involves somebody we care about. The first film in the franchise, The Bourne Identity, knew this. We genuinely cared about BourneÕs plight. He was confused, frightened, and totally mystified by his own ability to kill more people than the Plague. GreengrassÕ sequel continued this trend. Bourne suffered a devastating loss that propelled his actions throughout the rest of the film. We were curious as to who he was, and why the CIA wanted to kill him so much. Even without plots, both films were able to inject some sense of humanity into the proceedings. No such luck here. The filmmakers are too busy making it bigger and faster and shinier and newer and just plain more, so much so that when the big reveal comes as to BourneÕs identity—the driving question behind the entire series—it doesnÕt seem to matter. He just jumps out a window and the action continues unabated.
This is all a real shame to me because I do enjoy the work of both Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. Greengrass in particular is one of the best filmmakers out there, so long as his subject doesnÕt require an excess of emotion. YouÕre not likely to see him direct a romantic comedy anytime soon. This is not an insult. There is a definite place for directors like Greengrass. For instance, his United 93 was a nearly flawless film simply because the project demanded a detached perspective. Anything else and it would have been rejected.
Doug Liman, the director of The Bourne Identity, wasnÕt quite the action filmmaker that Greengrass is, but he knew how to make the audience care on a cerebral as well as a visceral level while still making a fast-paced thriller. As a result, it still maintains its place as the best Jason Bourne film. In the meantime, if you decide to see The Bourne Ultimatum, breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that it doesnÕt really matter whether you saw the previous films or not. Just sit down and watch mayhem for mayhemÕs sake.