It’s official, then – everyone’s out of step but me. Now, don’t get me wrong – I had no intention of being deliberately reactionary about Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum, and I’m aware that it has been cited by many critics as the cynosure of big-screen action.
Sorry, but if I wanted to get motion sickness, I’d charter a fishing trip and, although I’m a fully paid-up member of the pinko Socialists polo-neck sweater brigade, if I wanted a 15 minute advert for The Guardian (pronounced Guaarrrrdian, natch, cos it’s the septics in London we’re dealing with), I’d buy a copy and have a go at the crossword.
Confused yet? Stick around. Director Greengrass, whose hand-held documentary style was entirely suited to the marvellous Bloody Sunday (2002) and the sombre mastery of United 93 (2006) has made a serious misjudgement in his approach and, for this reviewer, allowed perceptions of style to override coherence and suspense.
Jason Bourne (the ever-watchable Matt Damon) is closing in on his mysterious past and the shadowy figures who populate it. Following the events of The Bourne Identity (2002) and Greengrass’s first and far superior stab …Supremacy (2004), Bourne is once again brought out of hiding, this time inadvertently by London-based Guardian reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) who is trying to unveil Operation BlackBriar – an upgrade of Project Treadstone, whence Bourne began. Information from the reporter stirs a new set of memories, and Bourne must finally, ultimately, uncover his dark past whilst dodging the best efforts of ‘The Company’ to take him down.
So, what’s wrong with it? I blame Bond. Not that there was anything wrong with Daniel Craig’s smashing turn as 007 in the fabulous Casino Royale (2006), but the critical collective seemed only too willing to tick the film off as a Bourne clone. Thus, Greengrass has made serious efforts to ensure that no accusations of borrowing from Bond can be made, hence the hyper-real, headache-inducing style. It just does not match the slick tone of the story, set-up or set-pieces, and, sorry, but the Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns script falls a long way short of being credible. My beloved was asleep in 20 minutes – I wish I could have joined her, but my responsibilities to Picturenose readers ruled.
Identity crisis? That would be the film’s problem, as much as it is Bourne’s.