I think the best aspect of the The Bourne Ultimatum, the third in the memory-troubled spy series, is how kinetically improvised it feels. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a human weapon and he thinks constantly with his body, feeling the situation and his environment, and he comes up with improbable weapons, be them pens, magazines, or kicking ass with just a book (knowledge is power). Bourne doesn’t rely on fancy gadgets or a caustic wit; he just outsmarts the competition by reading his world and reacting instinctively, and that is thrilling to watch. The Bourne films have separated themselves from other spy series like James Bond and standout because of how viscerally realistic they play out. That said, Bourne still survives scrapes that would kill any mortal. At this point, we know just about all we need to know with most of the characters, so Ultimatum is one long, fantastic, and gripping series of chases between Bourne and the CIA operatives that want to rub him out. Ultimatum is Paul Greengrass’ (United 93) second film in the series and he enhances the excitement through his docu-drama style of shooting. The editing is constantly roving and perfectly channels the nervous wariness of a spy that is constantly looking over his shoulder. The action sequences are stellar and raft with suspense and top notch stunt work amongst exotic locales. Ultimatum tacks on some awkward political commentary (black hoods, secret CIA torture, breaking the law to “win” the battle against terror) and tries squeezing its story into a fight between Bourne and the dangerous and lawless elements of the American government that have flourished under President Bush’s watch. It doesn’t quite work in the context of a summer action movie, but thanks for trying. The Bourne Ultimatum is a spry and refreshing action movie that serves to cleanse the summer palate of huge special effects blockbusters.
Nate’s Grade: A-
George Clooney’s pet project is articulate and a tad dull. The black and white cinematography is elegant; you can practically taste all the smoke onscreen. The idea of press vs. fear-mongering politician is very relevant today, and the film?s insight into the running of TV news is really interesting, but this is a movie that works best as a study and not as strict entertainment. It?s not stuffy or ideologically overwhelming; in fact it’s easy to follow and easy to get into, even if it leans too heavily on speeches. Clooney, as I predicted, is transforming himself into a terrific director with a great feel for his material. With Good Night, and Good Luck it seems like he got exactly what he wanted, regardless if an audience is going to walk away feeling they got their money’s worth.
Nate’s Grade: B