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.