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The Bourne Ultimatum

August 24, 2010

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Actors: Matt Damon, David Strathairn, Joan Allen

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Synopsis: Jason Bourne continues to elude CIA capture, leading to an ultimate climax in New York.

Review: First and foremost the Bourne franchise has been about rewriting the thriller rulebook, and on that basis The Bourne Ultimatum is a fitting climax to the trilogy, excelling in some truly gripping chase sequences. The London and Tangiers episodes are masterpieces in action conception and execution, and somehow provide fresh takes on seemingly worn genre tropes. Alas beyond the thrills, the wheels of the series elsewhere are beginning to creak, and the feint whiff of cliché is beginning to slip into the mix. This is most apparent in the rather tired and familiar plot device of having each movie propelled by convenient flashbacks and psychological traumas experienced by Bourne that allude to the narrative destination. In this case, Bourne’s nightmares become ever more conspiratorial and Manchurian Candidate-esque as he begins to remember how he was actually indoctrinated in the first place. Also unintentionally parodic are the “power talk” CIA brainstorming sequences (particularly when Joan Allen’s character shakes up David Strathairn’s branch) that betray the ingenuity of most of the other dramatic elements. Also inadvisable is the film’s attempt to be topical by capitalising on widespread cynicism about American governmental and intelligence institutions. The CIA is portrayed as exaggeratedly reptilian and covert through slimy turns from the likes of David Strathairn and Scott Glenn, and Bourne’s original orientation is unsubtly linked to ideas of rendition and torture made prevalent by the Iraq War. In its entirety though, the series has been a success, and Matt Damon in his muted and stern central turn has been a fitting symbol of this rebooted action hero for the post 9/11 world. I like the final shot of a seemingly dead Bourne floating in New York’s East river (a mirror image of how we found him in the Mediterranean at the start of the first film), and it’s a clever, circular image which aptly brings to a close Bourne’s journey of self-discovery. (November 2008)

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