The Ultimate Bourne Thrill Ride

This is not applause.
I wasted $8.25 and two hours on the theory that the team that created the Identity and the Supremacy could be trusted to deliver a decent sequel. The Bourne Identity was good. It was based on a Robert Ludlum thriller so I knew that I would have to surrender disbelief and enter a Manichean world. Ludlum was a reliable story teller, who could write a good character within the most fantastically paranoid story premises. In the Identity Damon was heroic, vulnerable and baffled, Brian Cox was a great scheming villain, Franka Potente stole the show and it was great fun. The Bourne Supremacy was good too. It had Brian Cox again, and Joan Allen added a strong character.

The Bourne Ultimatum seems to prove that a movie studio can fill theaters with a sequel, but there isn’t much of a story. There is some interesting work by Joan Allen, Albert Finney, and David Strathairn, but mainly Damon storms through one set of violent special effects after another. The car crashes are amazing – but watching Damon crawl of out of cars that have been rolled, smashed and crushed doesn’t work. The fights are good – one scene probably was intended to outdo the beating in the lavatory in last Bond flick. The earlier movies created suspense by first establishing sympathy or empathy for Bourne and Marie. In this one we are supposed to feel sorry for Bourne because we see, in flashbacks, that he was brainwashed and feels really bad about killing lots of people in his career as an assassin. I thought the cinematography, sound effects and special effects were calculated to replace suspense with sensory overload, to the point of discomfort and anxiety. This one was made for big theaters with full Dolby and for expensive home theater set ups. It doesn’t work nearly as well as a story.
The critics said it was good, as a thriller, but as far as I can see they are just cheering about the commercial success and stroking their audience. There is just no point to telling moviegoers who dropped, collectively, $70 million on one weekend, that they didn’t get value. The favorable reviews rave about pace, confusion, chases and special effects. It’s like praising the a tough steak for the sizzle and the hot sauce.


2 responses to “The Ultimate Bourne Thrill Ride”

  1. I agree with most of what you said. The lack of a satisfying conclusion to the storyline was annoying. It looks like the door has been left open to do another sequel. And who wouldn’t with a $70 million plus opening weekend. I also thought that a lot of the chase sequences were not story driven. And did he have to go on to the roof all the time. In the last scenes when they said he was heading for the roof, I turned to Susan and said “what a surprise”. It was interesting that there were almost no special effects in the movie. Everything was done through editing and multiple camera work. That’s a change from almost all recent movies. I have to say, in spite of the flaws I liked it. It’s the weakest of the three Bourne films, but in this current movie wasteland it was $5 not wasted.

  2. Zosma Zack Avatar
    Zosma Zack

    I agree with the comments both of you made, for the most part. However, for many people these days, going to a movie in a theater, especially one of the really Big Box theaters, is simply a way to see large scale action on a big screen. It’s the equivalent of a roller coaster ride. Plot, story, character become secondary. I would not waste the money going to see, for the sake of argument, GOSFORD PARK, at Silver City, despite the fact that I really liked that movie. Altman can wait for DVD. My favourite move of the summer so far is RATATOUILLE. Enjoyable because they were big screen thrill rides, but not particularly good… LIVE FREE, DIE HARD and BOURNE ULTIMATUM. Disappointing all around, failing on all levels, TRANSFORMERS… although the hero’s girlfriend is exceedingly cute, a young Jennifer Connelly.