Monday, 20 August 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

Over-Rated Film of the Year?

Apparently, the average film critic loves shaky hand-held camera work, desaturated colours, one-second (or less) cuts and non-stop action. How else to explain the huge critical acclaim for The Bourne Ultimatum (and for Children of Men last year)? I’ve had high expectations dashed before, but this was one of my biggest disappointments in a long time. I am NOT a fan of any of those things mentioned above. In fact, I consider shaky handheld camera work and instant cuts to be the work of lazy filmmakers trying to cover up the fact that the plot is so thin you could filter coffee through it. As was the case in The Bourne Ultimatum. The potential for turning this into an intelligent thriller with complex characters, as also with The Bourne Supremacy, was generally wasted (it was clever at times, but rarely intelligent). I am capable of enjoying good action thrillers, but only when the action comes in relatively short bursts and is not the only focus of the plot. In films like the last two Bourne thrillers, the action just bores me after a while (if you want a good “running” film, try The Fugitive). Even the last Bond film was better than this.

Not that the film was a complete disaster. The actors and acting were all above average, with Damon doing a particularly fine job. And let’s face it, Greengrass knows how to keep a story moving – there’s no let-up time here. And I really appreciated the ending, even though I did not find it remotely credible. I’m referring to the fact than after Bourne spares the life of an assassin, the assassin begins to question the dehumanizing brainwashing he has received from the U.S. government and decides not to shoot Bourne. I wish it were that easy to counter such thorough training, but I suspect that in reality, the assassin just blows Bourne away without thinking about it. Nevertheless, the fact that Bourne was beginning to recognize that killing (and assassination) is wrong was a good start.

I happen to be a fan of conspiracy spy thrillers, especially those filmed in Europe, so I did, in fact, enjoy The Bourne Ultimatum, but it could have been so much better (like Children of Men) if it had tried to fill out the plot and give us intelligent dialogue instead of focusing on action. If this is as good as an action thriller gets, then maybe it’s time for us to stop dumming ourselves down and begin demanding strong intelligent plots and deep characters even in our action films instead settling for a theme park ride. *** (my mug is up, but the stuff inside is “instant”).