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Bourne Free

Saw The Bourne Ultimatum last night with the missus. The movie’s gotten stellar reviews across the board, and its easy to see why. It was always engaging, and you really didn’t know what was going to happen next. This is in contrast with, say Live Free or Die Hard, which was always engaging, partially because you always knew what was going to happen next. Die Hard has become a cartoon; Bourne has become something far more substantial. Both are fun in their own way, but I have to give the tip of the hat to what the Bourneians have accomplished.

Much of the movie’s success has to be laid at Matt Damon’s feet. He manages to remain vulnerable and likeable, even though he has about five lines and he spends all of his time kicking the living crap out of everybody. He’s invincible and insecure at the same time. How many other actors can pull that off?

The supporting cast was just as good. Joan Allen and David Straitharn are two of the most underrated character actors in the biz, and it was fun to see Scott Glenn back in action, although he looks 500 years older than he did the last time I saw him. When was the last time I saw him? What has he done since Silence of the Lambs? I could check imdb, but I’m too lazy.

Of course, none of this would matter if the movie hadn’t been so tightly plotted. The movie always felt plausible, even though its central premise of a Manchurtain-style assasin with amnesia really doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Kudos all around – with the following caveats.

Caveat #1: Is it possible to make a thriller where the bad guys aren’t U.S. government operatives? I know I’m a broken record on this, but I get tired of the America bashing. It wasn’t nearly as overt in this flick as it is in most Hollywood crap, and Joan Allen’s character served as a check on most of the excesses, yet I can’t be the only one who finds this tedious. The plot didn’t try to bash Bush overtly or presume that everyone who works for the government was a melodramatic, mustachio-twirling evil Republican, so it didn’t make we want to throw up. But it did make me wistful for a movie where maybe someone outside the U.S. had nefarious plans for once.

Caveat #2: What did make me want to throw up was the omnipresent hand-held camera shots. I understand the rationale here – the whole thing has a “gritty, you-are-there” feel to it, but would heavens to Betsy, would it kill you to use a tripod once in awhile? During the major set pieces, it’s hard to follow the action without getting a little nauseous. The only consolation was that they learned a few things from The Bourne Supremacy, which is all but unwatchable because of super shaky cam stuff.

Overall, though, I can’t really complain. I wish I could, though. It’s much more fun to write a review of a bad movie than a good one.

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