From The Archives – The Bourne Ultimatum

After watching the new trailer for The Bourne Legacy yesterday, I randomly remembered the first ever film review I posted online. For no particular reason, I thought I would add it here too. Four and a half years ago; barely feels like half that. Also, my closing statement seems oddly prescient, if possibly misguided…

Originally published (hah!) on my Myspace blog, 17 August 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

What was your name again?

I went to the movies today. Saw The Bourne Ultimatum. Lemme tell you, it’s a damn good flick. If you liked Identity and Supremacy you are really going to enjoy this one. It builds on the story so far in really clever ways, with a few good twists thrown in for good measure. One in particular about thirty minutes in was a total “I can’t believe they just did that” moment which took me completely by surprise and judging by the stunned silence in the cinema, I wasn’t the only one. No spoilers here though. If you want to know, go see it.

The cast was faultless throughout, both the established characters (Damon, the amazing Joan Allen and Julia Stiles’ expanded role as Nicki) and the new arrivals, in particular David Straithairn (Good Night, and Good Luck) as Brian Cox’s nominal replacement in the CIA bad guy role and Paddy Considine (who kicked ass in Dead Man’s Shoes) as a typically nosy reporter on Bourne’s trail.


The story kicks off running with a scene continuing on from Bourne’s Moscow car chase from the previous installment, before a six week leap during which Guardian reporter Simon Ross (Considine) has got his teeth into the story of Bourne and, by extension, Treadstone and Blackbriar, complete with a highly placed source. This inevitably brings down a shitstorm from Langley and forces Bourne once again into action, leaving a trail of bodies and answers from London to Madrid, to Tangier where Bourne has an insane rooftop chase followed by a brutal fight with another assassin in a random apartment, and on to New York. One clever moment in the story sees Supremacy‘s denouement, Joan Allen’s revelation of Jason’s real name, revisited as a key plot point in the extended Manhatten finale.

You forgot my hot chocolate again? Is everyone around here fucking amnesiac or something?

As with his earlier contribution, returning director Paul Greengrass’ documentary background lends the many action scenes both an intense immediacy and a believability little seen in Hollywood today.

The only drawback I can see in this film is the way everything is tied up at the end, albeit in an entirely satisfying way. Personally I can’t see anywhere else for this character to go, although I hope someone else can. Provided they can maintain both the quality and Damon’s involvement, further Bourne stories will be something worth waiting for. I believe it would be a bad decision to go down the James Bond road and change actor every few films. As the posters say, Matt Damon is Jason Bourne.

5-Word 365 #040 – Salt

The DVD I picked up at the supermarket for a fiver has three different versions of this film on it: there’s the theatrical release cut, a Director’s cut and an extended cut. After asking the Flying Spaghetti Monster for guidance, His noodley appendage selected option 2. Enjoy.

Salt – The Director’s Cut

Angelina kicking butt. Again. Snore.

Evelyn Salt is a CIA officer in Washington whose day is thrown all to hell when an aging former KGB chief walks in to her office and announces that she is a Russian spy. Left suddenly with no one to trust, she goes on the run, hunted by her former friends. But is she trying to prove her innocence, or carry out her mission? (Cue dramatic music)

“Yarrgh! It is I, Cap’n Spoiler! Here be spoilers…”

Thanks, Cap’n. As it turns out, Evelyn is up to a bit of both. The Russian, Orlov, had been running a bit of a mini-eugenics programme back in the seventies that involved taking the children born of parents who displayed strong physical and mental ability, faking the children’s deaths, then raising them to be spies and killers who would be placed as sleeper agents all over the world. Orlov showing up in Washington all these years later is actually her activation and while she is supposedly interrogating him, he’s giving Salt her instructions right under the CIA’s nose. Those pesky Russkies! Unfortunately, Orlov failed to consider one thing: Angelina can’t be the baddie. She can make all the right noises and appear to be killing all the right people, but when you mess with her husband you are in line for some righteous vengeance.

“Yarrgh, spoilers be gone”

No matter how much you glare at me, Life Or Something Like It will still be shit. Please don't hit me.

Now then, what’s good here? On the performances side, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the CIA’s counterintelligence man and Angelina’s pursuer-in-chief, and Liev Schreiber as her immediate boss and oldest friend in the Agency both elevate the pulpy nature of Kurt Wimmer’s script into something almost compelling when they are on screen (which is all too rare, especially during the second act when they both pretty much disappear entirely). Ejiofor’s final scene in particular is full of unexpected depths of nuance for a man shoutinh in the back of a helicopter; unexpected for the type of film he’s in, not unexpected for the type of actor he is. You can see that he’s genuinely torn over what it seems he is going to have to do. Philip Noyce’s direction is as tight as ever, considering the Aussie is an old hand at this sort of fare. He does a competent job but he doesn’t seem to be stretching himself in any way.

The World Manly Scowling championship was down to the final two contestants.

And on the other hand, there a one or two things that don’t quite come together as well as I might have liked. Some of the stunt and effects work looks a bit cheap. The sequence in the climax where Salt is following the lift down the shaft by jumping down the framework struts just comes off as a little ridiculous. She jumps from each storey down to the next seemingly without any help from gravity; it looks more like gliding than falling. Then there’s Salt’s final fight with Shocking Twist Villain. Here is a woman who has spent the entire movie to this point kicking ass and taking names everywhere she goes, yet this person can take her punches and shrug them off? And don’t say it’s because Shocking Twist Villain received the same training as her, because so did everyone else on the barge and she took out a dozen of them without breaking a sweat (“Yarrgh!”) Sorry Cap’n. I can buy a hero that can take out all-comers, and I can buy a hero that has to work a little harder to get the better of someone, but when your hero switches between the two types purely as a plot convenience then my suspension of disbelief is out the window. Also, Evelyn’s blonde hair just looks like a bad wig.

Meanwhile, the World Womanly Scowling-while-firing-improvised-weapons champion had already been crowned.

Despite my griping though, Salt is a reasonable distraction. Angelina is in “not trying too hard” mode – all big lips and bigger eyes – but she still does her part in most of the action scenes with customary aplomb. I hope she’s looking out for Gina Carano though. Oooh, now there’s a fight scene to look forward to. Throw in Milla Jovovich and you’ve got a party!