I made an inevitable comparison between The Bourne Identity and Bond when I reviewed the first of the Bourne franchise last week. I also praised Bourne because it was without cliché, silly, unrealistic action or the need to “tick-the-boxes,” being forced to include key scenes, lines or character types.
Two movies later and I’m beginning to realise that I spoke too soon. People praise the Bourne franchise and credit it with being the main reason for the positive reboot of the Bond franchise, and while I agree with that, the similarities between the Bourne series and the Bond series before Daniel Craig are more apparent than you think.
Bourne now seems to have his own set of “tick-box” scenes and character types that have to be included. There will be a fast-paced “realistic” car chase, with Bourne usually in a vehicle that you would think un-equipped or unsuitable. This was refreshing in the Bourne Identity, with the run-down Mini, but when I’ve seen him race through crowded streets in a Jeep, a Taxi, on a dirt bike and in a police car, this action sequence has lost its appeal.
The villain will not be a unique, individual with a world-wide agenda but actually the exact same type of person that chased him in the first film. I know this is slightly unfair as Bourne isn’t trying to stop a world-wide conspiracy but there is no distinguishing aspect between David Strathairn’s villain in Ultimatum and Chris Cooper’s in Identity. Beyond some slight plot difference, their motivation is essentially the same. Bourne is getting too close, kill him.
The character they use to kill him is always the same as well. An assassin, the same type of assassin that we saw Clive Owen play in Identity and Karl Urban play in Supremacy. There is literally no difference between these characters. This will then lead us to the next “staple” of the Bourne series, the “shaky-cam” fist-fight where Bourne will cleverly use a household object to deadly effect. Its been done before. This, again, was no different and just like Supremacy, I couldn’t see half of the action because Paul Greengrass can’t keep his camera still!
The plot felt pointless. Supremacy had a good basic plot with Bourne forced in to create the sequel but Ultimatum didn’t even seem to have that. It began promisingly with the rogue reporter and a new assassin program being investigated but then fell into the same film that the last two were, Bourne is chased until he can turn the tables on those that wronged him. Rinse and repeat for future films.
Even Julia Stiles was wheeled out again, for no reason! Her involvement was as unnecessary as it was in Supremacy. It just felt like the script writers had a list of “what needs to be in a Bourne film” and then wrote around those key ingredients.
It’s not all negative. Matt Damon is effortless as Bourne and what I could see of the action scenes, the fight sequence in particular, he is still very cool with the choreographed battle. Immediately before that scene is the rooftop chase which was engrossing and, shockingly, unique. It had a cool climax to the chase and was probably the best part of the whole film.
It’s not enough though. The Bourne franchise should have ended with the first film. I know the book series continues but from what I have read, the films don’t even follow that series too accurately. The Bourne Identity was a refreshing, realistic, gritty action film with an original story that had a satisfying conclusion. The two films that followed just repeat the same popular moments from the first and offer nothing new.
Overall, another disappointment in a franchise that begins so brilliantly. I am bored with the same type of car chase, the same assassins chasing assassins, the same, shady CIA villain and shaky-cam fight sequences that I can’t follow. The Bourne Identity is a fantastic film and it should have ended there.
(1-3 – awful/avoid. 4-6 – average. 7-8 – good. 9-10 – fantastic.)