Release Date: December 11, 2007
Rating: 4 /
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez with Albert Finney and Joan Allen
Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum
Screenplay by: Tony Gilroy and Scott C. Burns and George Nolfi
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
“I would stand in line for this
There’s always room in life for this...”
The Bourne Ultimatum is the third and final chapter in the Bourne trilogy of action thrillers starring Matt Damon as an amnesiac CIA soldier trying to unravel his past. Without hesitation, I can safely say this is the best film of the trilogy. It builds on what has gone before and adds to the mix. It continues the action as established, but takes it a step farther, making the film an extended chase that runs all the way from a Moscow train station to the streets of New York without missing a beat. Like the previous film, The Bourne Supremacy, this film makes use of director Paul Greengrass’ handheld sensibilities throughout. Many scenes, both action sequences and dramatic confrontations, are filmed in a jittery, candid style that is designed to place the viewer in the center of the action, in the moment with the cast. A typical dramatic scene will be played as an over the shoulder shot, with the speaking or reacting face only half visible to us. And yet, by showing the viewer less, Greengrass actually reveals more. Paradoxical, yes. But also true. For the third film, three major new faces are added to a cast that has already seen contributions by Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Franke Potente and Clive Owen in the prior films. This time around, the very capable talents of Scott Glenn, David Strathairn and Albert Finney (in a key cameo) come into play, and they blend right into the mix. The only warning I can give you about the film, other than to watch out for some fairly intense action sequences strung throughout the film, is that once you turn it on, you may not be able to turn it off until it’s done.
I should also address a complaint I have seen online on this forum regarding “shaky cam” photography, as used in these films and in several TV shows – particularly the CSI shows and NCIS today. I remember a lot of this coming from NYPD BLUE, which lifted it from HOMICIDE. Part of this stems from HOMICIDE using a documentary-style approach in its first two seasons, where most of the work would be handheld with deliberately awkward cuts to emphasize the pseudo-realistic feel. (I still think this worked best on HOMICIDE but I might be in the minority on that one.) For this film, I didn’t have a problem with the “shaky cam”. Given that the main character spends much of the film on the run, this approach worked here. (My issues with it are when it’s used for no other reason than to jazz up a scene where nothing is really happening. Unmotivated camera movement is quite annoying. But in this case, I felt the movement was motivated.) I actually found the film easier to follow than The Bourne Supremacy, but I recognize this style is not for everyone.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5
The Bourne Ultimatum is presented in a mostly chilly 2.40:1 transfer that is quite sharp and reflects the cold environments of much of the film. The amount of detail is surprisingly deep, considering that most of the photography is deliberately jittery handheld shots. But we can still see the flecks of blood on Bourne’s face at key moments. And we can see every detail as cars smash directly into the lens or as we finally get to see Bourne’s pre-CIA dog tags. The Tangier sequence is a bit warmer, as is a reused underwater sequence from The Bourne Supremacy but the rest of the picture runs closer to the blue side of the spectrum. But that’s the nature of the Bourne films – they’re always happening in chilly European countries with characters wearing long coats, right?
AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5
The Bourne Ultimatum is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, French and Spanish that pretty much rocks the house. In multiple scenes, bullets whiz around the surround channels along with atmospheric sounds. Cars smash into each other with full subwoofer support. And yet the dialogue is still clear. Two key notes about this mix: first, it will remind you why you have a home theatre in the first place; second, don’t play this mix loud after midnight.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 3 ½/5 ½
The Bourne Ultimatum has a director’s commentary and just over an hour of featurettes and deleted scenes for the viewer to parse through. The deleted scenes are non-anamorphic widescreen, but all the other features are anamorphic.
Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass - Paul Greengrass walks the viewer through the film in this scene-specific commentary. He starts out by explaining the initial idea that led to the rest of the film – namely an attempt to explain what was happening at the end of the prior film in the series. Along the way, he discusses the usual material about working on the locations and with the cast. But there’s some great stuff mixed in about getting to work with Albert Finney and about how the film’s climax is resolved.
Deleted Scenes – (12:23 total, Non-anamorphic) - This collection of scenes and scene extensions mostly consists of an alternate introduction to the CIA headquarters characters in the film, providing a better initial look at the men played by Scott Glenn and David Strathairn. Joan Allen’s character is also given a rather different position in the deleted material than she seems to have in the completed film.
Man on the Move: Jason Bourne - (23:59 Total, Anamorphic) – This is a series of anamorphic featurettes covering the various location shoots done for the film, starting with night shooting in Germany (for Moscow), moving onward through a train station in London and the streets of Paris and winding up with a shoot in Tangier marked by the local crew being unable to eat during daylight due to the Muslim observance of Ramadan. One funny bit during one of the cold European shoots has Matt Damon and others publicly longing for a tropical Bourne film where they could shoot in Bermuda and Tahiti and other non-frozen environments.
Rooftop Pursuit - (5:40, Anamorphic) - This anamorphic featurette specifically focuses on a Tangier rooftop chase that carries Matt Damon and a bunch of pursuers across multiple buildings as a cable-cam gets the shots.
Planning the Punches - (5:00, Anamorphic) – This anamorphic featurette spotlights a major fight sequence between the characters of Bourne and Desh, with input from fight coordinator Jeff Imada. The potentially lethal props used in the fight are shown to be pretty harmless, but when you see the fight on progress, even just on videotape, things look pretty lethal. In one light moment, both Damon and his on-screen opponent do an Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation after a pretty good workout.
Driving School (3:24, Anamorphic) – This featurette shows Matt Damon going through a stunt driving school to allow him to put a car through a quick reverse and a sudden spin as required in one of the car chase sequences. Damon acquits himself pretty well, as we can see from the multiple successful spins he performs.
New York Chase (10:47, Anamorphic) – This final featurette covers the car chase across New York City that marks the film’s climax. 2nd Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator Dan Bradley (who is also shown in the “Driving School” featurette) talks about and shows how difficult it is to film this kind of sequence in the middle of New York City. Matt Damon makes a point about how potentially dangerous such a chase can be, given all the pedestrians and who knows what else that can suddenly emerge in the middle of such a densely populated city.
Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish for the film itself, as well as for the special features. I should also note here that the language subtitles that are part of the film itself (as when Bourne speaks Russian or other languages) are part of the movie and are not player-generated. The subtitles of the English dialogue, on the other hand, ARE player-generated. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including the new HD-DVD preview, and then trailers for The Kingdom, American Pie: Delta House, Bring It On: In It to Win It, and Bourne: The Game.
IN THE END...
The Bourne Ultimatum is a great popcorn movie – essentially a chase that goes on for two hours and really doesn’t stop for more than a few moments to catch its breath. If you’re a fan of the first two films, you’ll definitely enjoy this one. If you haven’t seen the first two, however, I’d recommend seeing them first. You could watch this one on its own, but it’s a lot more interesting if you know the backstory.
December 12, 2007.