Saturday, April 16, 2016

OVP: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Film: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Stars: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney
Director: Paul Greengrass
Oscar History: 3 nominations/3 wins (Best Editing*, Sound Mixing*, Sound Editing*)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

And so I finish off the massively successful Bourne trilogy.  Yes, it continued on with Jeremy Renner (anyone remember that?), and yes it is coming back this summer in the form of another iteration starring Matt Damon, but the original Bourne trilogy before Hollywood kind of mandated that we never kill any franchise ever (2007 was a simpler time) is really just the first three films, all of which I had randomly never gotten around to when they initially aired.  I've heard nothing but good things, but so far I've been fine but not impressed with the movies (you can find reviews for Identity and Supremacy in the links).  Would the fact that this one got three Oscars indicate an up in the game?  Let's find out...

(Spoilers Ahead) The problem I find with the Bourne films, except for perhaps the first one (which, by traditional metrics of film-making is the least of the three but arguably makes the most sense and as a result is still my favorite of the bunch), is that you have to be deeply invested in the movie's mythologies in order to really bank on these films, which I just could never get into.  This is partially because so many movies in the wake of this series' success (quite unprecedented for an action-hero trilogy for all three to be adored and to scoop up such accolades), almost every "smart" action movie borrowed ferociously from the series by Paul Greengrass.  As a result, the film feels copied from, which isn't its fault, but it is of course a problem.

The other issue I have with the film is that the plot is relatively easy to solve, but so much of the movie's driving narrative is reliant upon us not knowing what comes next.  Characters like David Strathairn's Noah Vosen are considered so bad that you half expect them to be twisting a mustache while Matt Damon swoops in to save himself and Nell Fenwick (here, played by Julia Stiles, totally ruining the red herring appeal of her character in the first film).  Honestly, I get that the action in the movie is really impressive-Matt Damon is a truly capable movie star, as is Joan Allen, but I wasn't blown away at all here, and in many ways this film feels like the same movie I just saw with Supremacy.  Doing the same thing with the same pieces again and again isn't really great movie-making, and so I left relatively disappointed, and quite frankly thought that this was the least of the three pictures.

The movie received three Academy Awards, two for sound and one for editing.  It's easy to see why these were easy categories for the Academy to gravitate toward, and the sound editing in particular I'm willing to get behind as the fight scenes are well choreographed and the street noise (which feels tacked on and therefore I'm putting it in editing) is authentically noisy for a busy thoroughfare, but it's not artistry in the same way that some of the other movies are achieving that year.  The editing, as well, doesn't have the subtleties and sense of purpose that we get in something like No Country for Old Men.  All-in-all, I feel like this is one of those series that critics got smitten with and couldn't really bag on even if it was diminishing returns, and repetitive ones at that, until Jeremy Renner gave them a scapegoat.

I know I'm in the minority here, and I get some of the appeal (this is the last important role for Joan Allen until Room, and that's worth noting), but I wasn't blown away.  Anyone want to defend the series in the comments?  Anyone think this was, like me, the worst of the three?  And what of those trio of Oscars-which did it genuinely deserve and what was all just a lovefest?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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