1 September 2007

If you wanted to play critic, there’d be a lot you could criticise about The Bourne Ultimatum. There’s not really that much story that we weren’t privy to before; several situations are borrowed from the second film, which, coupled with the obligatory and always annoying flashbacks may be a good hook for first-time viewers but falls flat for fans; Bourne repeatedly walks into situations of peril that he could just as easily have walked away from; neither dialogue nor performances will grip you; and there’s still that lingering doubt about that ‘nice young man’ Matt Damon playing a tough guy assassin.

But action flicks are ultimately about suspending disbelief. The most successful of them encourage us into just the right amount of suspension. Too little and we’ll be picking the film to bits before the opening titles have faded. Too much and we’ll have forgotten the experience before the closing credits.

Judging by the looks on the faces of those who watched it with me, The Bourne Ultimatum gets it just right. As the last scene faded no-one was dissecting the plot. Instead they were recovering their breath, laughing in that particular way that indicates a mix of cheer and release, or just forming their lips into the shape “Wow!”

Because when all is said and done, The Bourne Ultimatum is a roller-coaster ride into absurdism, which manages to also keep some hold on reality, or at least that variant of reality that occupies the continuum between our fantasies and paranoias. It’s a frenzy of hand-held camerawork and tight, choppy editing which occasionally pauses long enough so that you can hear the pounding in your temples, before careering headlong into the next sequence. Along the way, we are treated to some scenes that will doubtless become cinematic classics—perhaps the most exciting car chase sequence ever (move over Ronin), and the absolutely gripping early scene in Waterloo Station.

This was undoubtedly the most exciting two hours I have ever spent in a movie theatre, which makes any form of quibbling rather pointless. Instead, I’ll just join my “Wow” along with the others and urge you to see The Bourne Ultimatum. Firstly because it’s fun, and secondly because every future film in the genre will in some way be measured against it.
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