The Bourne Ultimatum

Popular wisdom states that the Bourne series has redefined the spy thriller genre. And when you consider that the latest James Bond movie turned away from the action-adventure tropes that have been the series’ bread and butter for decades (power-hungry megalomaniacs bent on world domination, big explosions, fancy gadgets, and so forth) to focus on gritty reality and mental chess games with equally skilled opponents, well, it’s hard to argue. After all, except for a digression to fall in love, get his girlfriend killed, and bring down bloody revenge upon the heads of those responsible, Jason Bourne has hardly done anything except make move after inexorable move toward the answers to his missing identity, countered by and countering the monolithic CIA that has yet unrevealed reasons to prevent him from reaching his goal. Gritty reality, mental chess? Check and check.

And now it’s time for the checkmate. The Bourne Ultimatum picks up our hero back on the trail of himself, that goal once more his sole reason for being. Non-stop action accompanies his quest to track down a CIA leaker who seems to know far more about him than he has known about himself in years. His few friends are no better than grudgingly helpful, while his numerous and almost limitlessly funded enemies want only to see him dead and his mess once and for all under rug swept. Luckily for him, he was created for these kinds of odds.

The camera work was all handheld, which at first seemed like an odd choice. I know people say it’s more intimate, but that was only rarely appropriate to the subject matter. My theory is that if you’re used to the slightly shaky camera, then by the time the frenetic action scenes start up, your eye will have a much easier time following what’s happening, from all the practice it’s gotten. On balance, the movie itself transcended the fairly redundant plot. Sure, questions that have never yet been answered reach resolution, but it feels like we’ve spent all three movies to reach this point. And the movies have previously felt too distinct to suddenly be shoehorned into a trilogy now. But, as I said, despite the sense of retread, the constant adrenaline and the understated passionate intensity of the acting make up for all that.

Discussion topic for after the movie: Why do we have a primarily patriarchal religion, when men are always portrayed as ultimately seeking their forgiveness and redemption from the hands of women?

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