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The Bourne Ultimatum

A movie directed by Paul Greengrass

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Inventive editing and a breakneck pace make for a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (and opening for a series?)

  • Jan 13, 2008
Jason Bourne (played to perfection by Matt Damon, who masters and pushes up several notches the combination of relentless drive and unsettled confusion that Harrison Ford modelled as Indiana Jones, Han Solo and Jack Ryan) is on a mission. His girlfriend was killed, he was pushed out of hiding and is ready to take on the organization he once served directly and discover how he came to be what he is. What ensues is a non-stop and brutal chain of events -- one of the most intense experiences I've had in the theaters in a very long time. Other reviewers have summarized the plot further and addressed several details -- I just wanted to speak to some of the complaints raised about editing in this film. Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have stated several times that they did not want to do James Bond -- cool, easy, stylish killing and violence without consequences or remorse (this is not as true of Casino Royale, but that film owes a great deal to the aesthetic and approach pioneered in the Bourne Identity and Supremacy). The aim is for a kind of documentary realism, a feeling of being in on the action and uncertainty, as well as an awareness of the unsettling and frightening consequences of the violence that follows. To my mind, the editing technique that was begun in Identity and perfected in Ultimatum is essential to this aim. The classical Hollywood style of editing is for continuity: every cut should be seamless, almost unnoticeable, and there are a number of techniques that allow for this: cutting on action, cutting for reaction, matching shots and placement, etc., techniques that are so well worn that they almost become a cliche. This kind of editing is rarely possible with documentary footage -- especially when it is action and captured on the fly. Greengrass and his editor avoid cliche meticulously and cut for movement and to duplicate the mindset of Bourne, his constantly needing to look behind his back, his uncertainty and his drive, a style that gives this film a documentary feel. The editing of the film is unsettling and occasionally confusing because it aims to unsettle and aims to generate the experience of unpredictability and confusion and raw shock in the audience that the actions documented in the film should generate. It aims not to be merely an engaging but escapist fantasy into a world outside and apart from everyday life but injects its scenario into a real world with living breathing characters like ourselves. Unlike standard action fare, in which "collateral damage" (e.g. the people who die in car accidents indirectly caused as Bruce Willis chases down the bad guy in a Taxi) is ignored, the effects of Jason Bourne's actions would have real-life consequences that are not simply evaded here. I think the film achieves its aims extremely well, and in the process took me places I haven't been in film. That's why I watch movies, and here's to more directors willing to push the envelope of screen technique even at the risk of alienating some audiences.

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More The Bourne Ultimatum (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . February 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I just couldnt get as into this one as i did the first two, not that it wasnt i great movie it just lacked that feeling of nonstop action that the first and second ones had.
review by . November 04, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Paul Greengrass has stepped into the director's shoes for this third installment of the Jason Bourne identity crisis and in doing so has created nearly two hours of tension that would make Robert Ludlum proud! This is an example of how Hollywood can shine when it integrates all of the components of an 'action suspense thriller' by capitalizing on finding the best contributors available - actors, producers, cameramen, stunt men, script (Tony Gilroy, George Nolfi and Scott Z. Burns), composer of music …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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The often breathtaking, final installment in theBournetrilogy finds the titular assassin with no memory closing in on his past, finally answering his own questions about his real identity and how he came to be a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. Matt Damon returns for another intensely physical performance as Jason Bourne, the rogue operative at war with the CIA, which made him who and what he is and managed to kill his girlfriend in the series' second film,The Bourne Supremacy. Now looking for payback, Bourne goes in search for the renegade chief of CIA operations in Europe and North Africa, partnering for a time with a mysterious woman from his past (Julia Stiles) and constantly--constantly--on the run from assassins, intelligence foot soldiers, and cops. Directed by Paul Greengrass(United 93)with the director’s thrilling, trademark textures and shaky, documentary style,The Bourne Ultimatumis largely a succession of action scenes that reveal a lot about the story’s characters while they’re under duress. Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, and Paddy Considine comprise the film’s terrific supporting cast, and the well-traveled movie leads viewers through Turin, Madrid, Tangiers, Paris, London, and New York. Overall, this is a satisfying conclusion toBourne’sexciting and protracted mystery. --Tom Keogh
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Director: Paul Greengrass
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 11, 2007
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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