Sunday, August 5, 2007

Reel To Reel: The Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne-again action.

How It Rates: ***1/2
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Glenn Scott, Paddy Considine
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Intense Action Violence, Mild Language

The third film in the Bourne saga is a global, hyperactive game of Pac-Man, with bad spooks chasing a rogue spook and dirty spooks with their hands on the joystick. These spooks have a dazzling ability to track people anywhere on the planet, using a room full of obedient keyboard jockeys to hack into cell phones and computers and monitor every conversation. They deploy operatives at the push of a button, who feed back video to central command through miniature cameras, some attached to handguns, believe it or not. I can believe it more than not because the NSA's computer capabilities are years ahead of anything off the shelf.

All of this technology, however, is useless against Jason Bourne (Damon), a highly-efficient CIA assassin who's still trying to figure out who trained him while his superiors try to kill him, thus covering up the highly covert, highly illegal operation that used him. The picture runs, literally runs, like a deadly version of The Amazing Race with Bourne hopping from Moscow to Paris to London and Madrid and Morocco before getting back to America, running through streets and airports and jumping through windows. "We have to move," he says at one point, which is the understatement of the entire picture. He's got CIA ops on his tail every step of the way -- when they can find him -- and at each location, you know somebody or something's going to get killed or blown up. Bourne leaves such a mess behind him I wonder why some Homeland Security flunkie doesn't show up halfway through the film asking questions about ruckus overseas.

Bourne does have an ally in Joan Allen (Pamela Landy), the CIA's model of the prototype good cop, who gradually learns the dirty big secret surrounding Bourne's missions. But she's clearly not going to get by Fearless Leader, Noah Vosen (Strathairn), a CIA honcho from the with-us-or-against-us school of threat management who keeps trying, trying, trying to terminate Bourne with legions of ops only to see them get cold-cocked or bumped off. Bourne is so resilient, walking away from each confrontation, he makes James Bond look like Johnny English.

Damon's character has more than enough chase and fight scenes, all of them filmed with shaky hand-held cameras to pump up the action. All the shaking makes them hard to follow at times on the big screen, although things should be better on DVD. Naturally, this doesn't give Bourne much time for extracurricular activities. A brief fling with a Madrid CIA agent (Stiles) barely generates any passion, let alone romance. Why should it? We have to move.

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