A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 222 – The Bourne Ultimatum

The Bourne Ultimatum – October 8th, 2010

Last night when we finished the second movie Andy suggested waiting for midnight and putting this in immediately. I was tempted. Very tempted. Because while I did have issues with last night’s movie, I enjoyed it all the same, and knowing there was a third I was left very hopeful. After all, at the end of the second movie Bourne’s still dealing with some very difficult morality issues and his fractured memory and identity. He’s looking for answers about who he is and who he was and why he’s been doing what he knows he’s been doing. So even though it could all possibly end at the second movie, there’s plenty to work with for a third. But I was exhausted. And I wanted to sleep. I’m glad I did, because this is one hell of a tight movie, full of twists and double crosses, and I’m glad I watched it when I was awake enough to really pay attention to it.

I loved this movie. I loved every moment of it. For one, it starts off nice and tense, picking up where it left off in Moscow and setting Bourne up to be injured and on the run. So it starts out with risk involved and it never really lets up. That’s a far cry from the second movie, where yes, there’s danger, but it doesn’t last. Yes, there’s a plot point that sucks Bourne back towards the CIA but I think it was done far more elegantly this time and he was headed somewhat in that direction anyhow. And it all plays well into Bourne’s search for his past. I’m kind of hesitant to go into too much detail, to be honest. I could explain the plot and what it involves, but really, it would start to get spoilery so quickly.

The plot we get involves a leak to the press regarding Treadstone, which is now defunct, and Project Blackbriar, which was mentioned in the end of the first movie and which is easily assumed to be something equally or more dangerous than Treadstone was. The leak gets the attention of Noah Vosen, played by David Strathairn, and that’s where all the big shit starts. I like David Strathairn. No, scratch that. I fucking love David Strathairn. Dude’s a badass with glasses and a mild voice. I’d say he’s on a level with Joan Allen as an unexpected badass. Someone professional and cool and collected. The big difference between Strathairn’s Vosen at the start of this movie and Allen’s Landy is that Landy in the last was working without everything she needed. She started out behind Bourne and never quite caught up. Vosen starts out with an upper hand. He knows who and what Bourne is and what he’s capable of and he has tools on the same level at his disposal. I immediately feel like Bourne’s at risk, even though he’s just as tough as always. And then Landy’s brought on board with Vosen and Bourne’s doubly in danger because Landy almost had him when she was at a disadvantage and now she’s distinctly better armed. It’s a lovely set-up. Fast paced and tense, with just the right element of danger involved.

What really strikes me now that I think about it is that this movie goes back to something from the first one, which is that the enemy Bourne is dealing with is someone who knows him better than he knows himself – theoretically at least. He has allies, and some unexpected ones at that, but his opponent is another chess master, playing by some creative rules. I am reminded in one scene of a game called Fluxx. It’s a card game and on the surface it’s a simple one. There are item cards, there are action cards, and there are also cards that set the instructions for how many cards you can have, how many cards to draw, how many to play each turn. And there are goal cards that set the winning conditions. And every turn the rules change. That is how the game works. You play a card and suddenly the goal your opponent was playing for is gone and one that you’ve got the cards for is in place. Winning is a matter of setting everything up right. When Vosen says it’s over when they win? I can’t help but think that he’s looking at a win condition that someone else might change in the next turn. That’s the sort of movie this is.

I can’t help but admire this entire setup. Where last night felt like amateur hour every so often, tonight feels like watching artists at work. There are so many double crosses it’s brilliant. There’s genuine risk, and it’s at such a high level it forces Bourne and Landy to both work at the top of their games because Vosen’s working at the top of his and he’s got resources. It heightens the entire movie for me. There’s at least one moment mid-movie where I laughed out of pure delight as what had just transpired, with all three leads involved in something so twisty I didn’t quite see it coming. The movie deftly works in issues of morality that surface for many of the characters, not just Bourne. He’s a catalyst for many of the key players. Landy, Nicky, at least one of the assassins he faces. The movie has some amazing plotting, writing and direction as well as once more demanding fantastic performances from its leads. And when it was over I was so thrilled with what I’d seen, I was left speechless for a little while. That’s one hell of a movie.

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October 8, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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