Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Bourne Ultimatum


This is without question the smartest, snappiest, most satisfying series of movies now in production. The audience has built over the years, and this one opened very, very big and had excellent reviews, so even though there are only three Robert Ludlum books about Jason Bourne and this one really seems to wrap up the story … when a series keeps raking in the dough like that you can never say it is over. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fourth. And I’m not sure it would be a good idea, but money talks. We’ll see.
This one is as smart and challenging as the first two. It makes you work to keep up with it. The scenes where the CIA is trying to track Bourne through Waterloo Station with dozens of agents, computers, and CCTV cameras, and his tricks to avoid them, really crackle with intelligence. Like the first two, there are no fancy made-up James Bond gadgets, everything is off the shelf, everything is plausible. In fact, the whole plot is set in motion by an NSA computer picking one word out of the almost unimaginable babble of cell phone communications … which is something they can do! Jason Bourne is almost as relentless as the Terminator, he’s got no snide remarks, no clever lines as he’s killing someone, no smirk. (Oh, he does have one clever line, but it is so good that it makes you burst out laughing in admiration.)
Now, I called this film “plausible.” There’s no way you can call it “realistic,” though it has a feel of realism that almost no other action/thriller these days manages to accomplish. After all, though any one of Bourne’s escape might work, it’s simply not possible that, no matter how good he is, he could escape time after time after time. But this falls under the heading of “Hey, it’s a thriller, you gotta suspend your disbelief.” It’s a fine line, but these movies seldom cross it. Bourne outruns no explosions, for instance. He does absorb more punches with fists and feet than a human being really can do, and an explosion, and a fall in a car from about three or four stories up, and a bad wreck … and doesn’t seem too hurt when in fact he would be crippled for weeks by any of these things … but again, it’s a thriller, and I have come to be grateful for what I can get in that department, so long as it isn’t comic-book level.
It must be said, however, that in the matter of quick editing, it does put its foot over the line a few times, to the point where you’re not sure just what the hell is going on. That’s too bad, but I forgive it because most of the time, it stays just on the right side of the jerky-camera motion-sickness partially-obscured “edginess” that sink all too many action films for me. And there is no CGI over-the-top crap, which I have begun to regard as the refuge of the talentless. It’s all good old-timey stunt action.