Ah Matt Damon, the rectangular-headed, furrow-foreheaded blonde who made one of the best career decisions ever when he signed up to play Jason Bourne. The series blended spy fun, jolting action and a new breed of brutal fight scenes, which later filtered into Bond and made it good again. The Bourne Ultimatum enters this year’s trilogy race with a successful novel behind it, providing a head-start on the competition. Unlike the barrage of other three-quels out this summer (Shrek, Ocean’s, Spider-Man) Bourne has a story to finish, rather than a scrabble to set up a new one.
After waking with no memory in the first film, and having his little love-nest destroyed in the second, Bourne is understandably a bit peed off, so the general gist of the third instalment is that he’s still pretty peeved and still looking for more answers. It’s familiar territory to established fans (though potentially a confusing mess to any who venture in without pre-knowledge) with a variety of locations dotted through Europe, lots of cat and mouse antics, and enough chases and fights to leave you visually exhausted.
The fights are, as ever, slick yet dirty, with Bourne using whatever implement he can find that’ll do the most damage. Every thwack, crack and crunch is amplified to ear-splitting effect. It’s a good job they didn’t show Jason taking a break to eat a Toffee Crisp or the ears would have been bleeding in the aisles. Fast edits creates a frantic feel, so the inevitable car chase gets the heart pumping, but at times I wished things would calm down just a little so I could tell what the hell was going on. A large portion of the film involves watching people move quickly while the soundtrack ‘der-der-der-der-ders’ away in the background. It’s exciting, but ever-so-slightly tiresome after an hour of it.
Not that there are many negatives to this film. It’s still a taut thriller, with a strong cast, intriguing plot and some belting action pieces. I’m just not over-whelmed by it, because underneath beats the heart of a basic action. The components are all there – brooding goodie who can beat the crap out of everyone and come out of explosions and horrific crashes with barely a scratch on him. Women get in trouble and need saving by the goodie. Baddies comes in levels – level 1 being faceless chasers, level 2 slightly more difficult fighters, and the big bad sits in a control room hatching evil plans. And coincidences and lucky breaks serve as handy devices to further the plot. It’s like Die Hard without the quips.
But the Bourne series covers everything with darker shades, and with a sombre tone that makes it easier to take serious. And with a strong Damon in the lead as a believable killer who’s also sympathetic, and the final pieces to a three-film puzzle falling into place, Ultimatum is worthy of a watch. Not mind-blowing, but certainly gripping and entertaining, Bourne bumps up to CF1.