Film Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

And so Jason Bourne’s story draws to a conclusion with the explosive The Bourne Ultimatum, or at least that is how they want you to believe the story ends. Sadly, I am at odds with the “proper” critics over Bourne’s last stand. Rotten Tomatoes places it over 90%, Metacritic lags behind in the 80’s. Both of which, I feel are just a little bit too high.

My problem with it is that it’s trying to be too much. It’s trying to take everything that’s good about the first two films and roll them into one. You can see, littered throughout the film, an overriding desire from the filmmakers to ensure they’ve crossed every t, dotted every i and joined every dot. They knew they are completing the circle of his story and nothing will stop them from getting back to the start.

And it is this sheer determined blindness to charge towards one single goal, that results in a film that feels flat in comparison to it’s previous siblings. The film is littered throughout with references to actions and events from those siblings to a point that you are reliant on having watched and remembered the originals to fully understand what’s going on. This film just doesn’t have the strength to stand on it’s own two feet – although it could be argued that there is slim likelihood of someone watching this film if they haven’t seen the first two, but that isn’t a good excuse to invoke this many crossovers to the plot.

My other major issue with the film is that really it introduces nothing new. It doesn’t feel like cynical film making from nothing more than a money making point of view, but all the stunts, all the cinematography, all the plot development feels borrowed. It just goes to reinforce my first complaint, but the car chase through New York is essentially the same as the car chase through Moscow from The Bourne Supremacy but as always second time around, not quite as exciting. Marie has just become Nicky. And I’m still not quite sure how the story evolves to an ending which can be descriptively titled “Ultimatum“. Unlike the previous installments this film just doesn’t get the heart racing.

But that’s not my biggest complaint. My biggest problem with The Bourne Ultimatum is with Jason Bourne himself. The reason the first two films are so good, the reason the character changed the genre and gave Bond a much needed kick up the backside was that we were suddenly given a spy, an assassin, who didn’t want to be one. He was the anti spy. Here was a character who did everything the genre demanded of him, who looked right, who fitted the picture but ultimately, had a conscience. He showed humility, suffering and regret. He showed pain. No matter what action he took you emphasised with him. Yet suddenly, he’s changed. He’s become cold, heartless. They’ve broken the connection between us and he has become a character who fights because he can, not because he has to. It breaks the trust and it never comes back.

Sadly, I find little to really like about the film. In fact, trying to balance this out I’m struggling to find the positives. There are just too many fractures. Too many things that went before that were better. Even Paul Greengrass fails to wave his magic a second time ’round. My time with the Bourne trilogy is now up and while the franchise continues with The Bourne Legacy, it’s a story such removed from Bourne and the first three films it feels almost sad to share the title. I personally feel that rather than develop an entirely new, fictional lead from a genetically enhanced world; bringing back Édgar Ramírez as Paz and developing the Blackbriar story and the internal politics of the CIA would have created a stronger 4th story, and potentially served to solve some of the issues Ultimatum created by answering a lot of the open ended questions it throws up.

Sadly, that didn’t happen, and therefore, we’re left with a trilogy which to me at least, ends on a bit of a flat note. But as I said as the start, it appears my views on this are firmly in the minority so what do I know anyway!

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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