Monday, August 20, 2007

Bourne Again

Oh the beauty of knowledge! To live in a digital age where anything is available at the tap of a key! In the newest (and best) offering of the Bourne legacy, The Bourne Ultimatum (or "the Bourne whatever," as I told the ticket girl), knowledge is as free and readily had as clouds in the sky. In mere moments an entire digital photographic layout of one's apartment can be developed - to such perfection that closeups can decipher tiny, hand-written bits of information which will solve the search at hand. Freed from the trivialities of cause and effect (the laborious obtaining of information, say) The Bourne Ultimatum whirs about at a meth-like speed, hopping from classified breach to classified breach at the dial of a Motorolla RAZR. It's rather similar to the logic rebuttal of this year's magnificently bombastic Live Free or Die Hard in which the excuse for skipping the whole learning curve was the resident hacker who could find anyone, anywhere with a stolen Sidekick.

And when such tedious tasks as the obtaining of information are caste by the wayside, so does plot's raison d'etre. "Why," I found myself wondering in one of the films few lulls, "are they chasing Bourne so hungrily? What is this top secret organization BLACKBRIAR and what is its M.O.?" But then, like a saving grace, the metallic fury of crashing cars comes bouldering into view and boom! no more thinking. Just a steely ballet of demolished shrapnel and physcial contortionism.

Because, really, that's what we're here for. And that this film delivers with a glutton's glee. But it's artful, too. I can't recall better action cinematography this side of early Besson. When the big car chase is going down, the dizzying hurl of metal on metal - coils flying into the air, bumpers crumpling like paper, the deafening roar of racing engines - you're (I'm, at least) pulsing in your seat, clapping and hooting at the exuberance of it all. And the implausibility. That Bourne survives the 80 mph aerial overturn of his car by clutching to the passenger side seat belt is delightfully absurd. But again, that's what you're here for.

The series initial strength lay in its casting of the peripheral characters. When I finally saw the first film, I couldn't suppress my delight at all of the character actors who rounded out the chase. My absolute worship of Brian Cox aside, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Franke Potente and Julia Stiles is certainly an informed and imaginative ensemble to relieve Mr. Damon of any acting necessities. Who is, conversely perfect because he is like those whirring bits of hurled machinery. Without an identity or character of any kind, he may go about his business, unbridled by that pesky personality thing. Instead, Damon does what he does best (throughout the entire series, thank god). He looks confused. In Ultimatum, a different casting crew merely echoes prior choices. The return of Joan Allen and the surprisingly scrumptious Stiles are greatly appreciated, but the first timers to this siege so greatly resemble their prior counterparts that it rings as slightly rote - the one thing Identity was not. When we finally meet the culprit to this as-of-yet unfathomable BLACKBRIAR, he's so similar to Brian Cox that I thought (again, worship aside), "just cast Cox again. It doesn't matter that he's dead. They did it in Blade 3"

Of course casting Damon as some tactical mastermind has its pitfalls. I believe that he can outrun the deliciously kempt Edgar Ramirez (last seen in Domino Harvey sporting long, dirty locks and glistening in cross-processed sweat) but I hardly believe he can outsmart Joan Allen. Allen, who is statuesque and calculating, this go-around respects Bourne. This is fine because we may align our empathy with hers. It makes me feel good to feel like Joan Allen. And the same goes for Miss Stiles, who is perfectly delightful in peril. Sympathy is on high in this third installment and there are more players on Bourne's side. Fortunately this allows our want of redemption to not merely rest on Damon who truly seems oblivious to their assistance.


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