The Bourne Ultimatum: Paul Greengrass



One day over six years back, I picked up the Bourne series off the dusty book shelf of my school library. What followed were some of the finest hours of my adolescent life. I immediately fell in love with the character; the amnesiac spy in search of his identity, the cold war setting and the bleak political landscape of that era. Robert Ludlum was a fine writer and he crafted some pretty amazing thrillers. So it was natural that I felt disappointed upon hearing Hollywood was getting ready to bastardize the concept.

Thankfully, the first two Bourne films (The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy) delivered what they promised, a smart edge of the seat experience. But the third in the series is hands down the best of the three and perhaps even one of the best action/spy capers of all time. I’m going to risk ridicule by going ahead and putting it right up there with the likes of Heat and Ronin.

The first thing you’ll notice about the film is the breakneck pacing. It gets brutal with the brilliant camera work and some very very clever scenes. The scene where he maneuvers a British journalist through the Waterloo train station is downright ingenious. The film is unrelenting; it hardly gives you time to breathe. An hour into the film, it slows down a bit for about two minutes and sooner than you can say ”*insert term of choice here*”, you’re biting your nails off again.

Oliver Wood‘s photography, contrary to a few critics’ opinions actually gives you a sense of being part of the action. The plot is nothing to crow about but marvelous performances (notably Joan Allen and David Strathairn) by an amazingly talented cast turn this into a top notch cinema experience. Jason Bourne’s change from a man on the run to a merciless revenge seeking machine is brought to life by a very restrained Matt Damon.

Paul Greengrass is a master director. Though I found his United 93 a bit too hard to sit through, I have to admit, this man has complete control over everything. A few scenes are so well thought out that I’m guessing editing them must have been harder than shooting them.

Of course, the film is nothing like the book. The only similarities I could make out were the names of the characters and the David Webb persona. But this is an extremely smart update of the same story; it deftly captures human paranoia in the current political atmosphere.

Overall, one of the year’s best films if not one of the most engrossing thrillers of all time. 9/10


6 Responses to “The Bourne Ultimatum: Paul Greengrass”

  1. 1 bApHoMEt

    I agree with you totally when u say – “putting it right up there with the likes of Heat and Ronin.”

    Though the camera is very exciting and it puts you in the middle of the action, I must say that it is uncomfortable. Also, when you look purely from the point of cinematic language, in the conversation pieces where the camera sneaks over the shoulder/around the head of the characters, the perspective is highly confusing. Though I understand the purpose of this technique, which is to give the illusion that you are perhaps spying/eavesdropping on the conversations, the perspective is often muddles since it begs the question – who are we spying on and from whose point of view.

    Also, I believe that cinematography has to be non-obtrusive. The audience should not be aware of the camera. But here, that is not the case, though there are moments when I was enveloped completely in the environment of the film, there were numerous occasions when I felt too aware of the camera moving.

    On a related note, I thoroughly enjoyed Barry Sonnenfield’s camera in “Raising Arizona” though. Here too, the camera moves around quite a bit, but it is seamless.

  2. Dude…I admit there are a few times I did feel a little nauseous because of the camera movement. But then, during that fight sequence in Tangiere, I was so impressed the way the camera moved…that I was willing to forget the initial skepticism I had about the camera.

    About cinematography being non obtrusive i agree but I do prefer clunky movements over clean sweeps. It gives a more natural POV, like moving your own head across a canvas.

    BTW, that chase sequence that ends in the car crash…did you notice the frame vibrating for around 2 seconds….brilliant.

    Also, I finally got hold of the OST of Kingdom of Heaven…love it.
    I’ve been reading Eco’s name of the Rose with it playing in the background…the experience is like no other! 🙂

  3. 3 bApHoMEt

    I love that song – Light Of Ibelin. Also, loved the combination of instruments in “To Jerusalem” and the cappella of choir in “Path To heaven”. Man, i love the whole friggin’ soundtrack. Must try reading a book to it. Try travelling in KSRTC bus listening to the SOundtrack. thats an experience too. hehehe.

  4. 4 Swen

    Wrt to spy movies. I totally loved Spy Game…

  5. Dude…Spy Game was pretty good but trust me you will be blown away by BU simply because of the sheer speed at which things unfold!

  6. 6 Swen

    Definitely. But what i love about spy game is ..its just a spy movie. Not much of action. And its so cool ..

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