Then, against more odds, they made a sequel and The Bourne Supremacy was actually an even better movie than the first, with even bigger thrills, even faster car chases and even less to do with its Robert Ludlum source material.
But like most franchises with an unexpected sequel "Bourne 2" was left on just enough of a cliffhanger to leave everything open to a second sequel, but just enough closure to keep viewers (and critical detractors like me) satisfied.
So now, it's 2007 and Bourne is Back... or, actually, Bourne never left.
Instead of bringing us forward a few years, The Bourne Ultimatum's origin point is somewhere before the closing credits of The Bourne Supremacy. In fact, seeing as how the final scene in The Bourne Supremacy doesn't get incorporated until Ultimatum is over half way completed, many of the events of the film serve to fill in the blanks of Bourne's adventures before he was even Bourne...
Of course, the vast majority of what returning director Paul Greengrass and returning writer Tony Gilroy (along with co-scripters Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi) want to show us surround the events leading up to this film's Revenge Plot. First they took his identity, then they took the life of his true love, then they took his best friend's dignity by making him star in Gigli... the list goes on. Luckily to help with that list we've got a killer supporting cast for flashbacks and anger fuel including Chris Cooper, Brian Cox and Franka Potente. We've also got a big bowl full of more-than-respectable supporting actors new to the series like Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Scott Glenn(!), David Strathairn(!!) and even Albert Finney(!!!). But what about the returning faces of the still alive, if undecided in the "sides" category? Well good old Pamela Landy is back again and still played by Joan Allen and sweet Julia Stiles pops in to fill the void left by Bourne's varied love interests.
The ingredients for a great action flick are there and there is most certainly no dearth of the action itself. Make no mistake, Jason Bourne is back in fine form and his ass kicking, roof hopping, villain stopping ways are most assuredly not weakened by his trials and tribulations. Again we see Damon taking down scores of bad guys while racing through the cities in first through third world nations using just about every known form of transportation from his own Nikes to spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners (no, wait, that was Mission Impossible III). Again we see Amnesiac Bourne and his lady friend du jour disguising themselves against the evil forces of the deceptive artists formerly known as Treadstone. Again we get an amazing, thrilling and nigh impossible car chase (well, Motorcycle Chase, as the Minis have been dispensed with) down alleys, up stairs and through buildings. Again we learn more and more about Bourne, the nasty guy he was pre-Amnesia and the good man he's trying desperately to be post-recovery. And yes, all that is exciting.
The problem here? The word "again". While The Bourne Ultimatum is a thrilling ride that appeals on more than one level, it essentially rehashes the best parts of the first two films in the series. The bike chase seems amazingly like the Mini chase. The disguise sequence feels like a reenactment from the first movie designed to show that Julia Stiles really did know what movie she was in this time and the use of flashback to slowly reveal the new and now higher-up bad guy's involvement in the brain-scrambling that birthed Bourne really feels like an amped up version of the very same motifs that we've been given before.
New ground is broken here, though it feels a lot like Wolverine's flashbacks from X2. Do we find out who Bourne really is? We do. Boy do we ever. Is it satisfying? Well, for the most part, yeah, but is it surprising? Not really. By the time we get to the final act we've seen a lot arrive that we, quite frankly, saw coming.
However, the main culprit in this film is its repetitive nature. Sure it moves the plot along, but it does it by the same formula with all the same tricks. That said, the acting remains fine (even if the occasional intense scene comes off as slightly comical) and the action is super-fantastic. We may never be all that fooled into thinking that Bourne's about to buy the Treadstone Farm, but each time the film throws him into peril, we root for him nonetheless.
Further, been-there-done-that or not, Greengrass has a great flare for action as well as drama. Never (well, okay, rarely) does he allow an explosion, gunfight or martial arts sequence delve into the MTV or Nausea-Vision style of filming that has become so popular of late. Further, he allows the right amount of cooling time between sequences of varying tone. Greengrass (thanks, in no small part to the score of John Powell, the cinematography of Oliver Wood and the editing of Christopher Rouse) allows the contrasting puzzle pieces to lock together with just the right transitions to help make a dramatic scene of dialogue feel almost as thrilling as a side-sliding bullet-flying car chase.
Still, hard core Ludlum fans might wonder just where The Bourne Ultimatum is in The Bourne Ultimatum. Perhaps if this had been more of an adaptation of the novel that purports to be its source material ol' "Gilroy Was Here" and company might not have felt the need to rehash so very many sequences from the earlier, superior works.
A mixed bag, this ultimatum is, but it's ultimately satisfying to the action fan, even if the brain needs to be put on pause a couple of times. Three Stars out of Five for The Bourne Ultimatum. It's not the most original tack in the peg-board, but it's just what the action-doctor ordered. For a film that promises to tie up all the loose ends, I still have to wonder, just what was Nicky Parsons' relationship with ol' Bourne before he got conked on the cantaloupe? Yeah, some of the film exists only to fall at the feet of the Mighty MacGuffin! Other parts fizzle before they reach fruition, other parts... feel just plain forgotten as if Greengrass and Gilroy (G2?) were hoping that the audience was mostly made up of Amnesiacs. But hey, when it works it works. Oh, and just in case you are all Amnesiacs... don't forget, I'll see you in the next reel!
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