Friday, October 05, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum by Paul Greengrass

Lights! Camera! Action!!

Films dealing with violence and destruction fall into some broad genres:

Westerns: Wide open vistas, sparsely populated towns, primitive weapons, horses, stereotypes of valor and chivalry.

War: Organized violence, heavy machinery and planning, grime, the brotherhood of fighters, memories of home.

Action: Urban (typically metropolitan) setting, suave, witty, modern handguns and peripherals, car chases, destruction of civic property, breaking of traffic rules, high-tech.

There was a time in Hollywood, when urban violence between man and man became so predictable and trite that the studios had to go in for aliens, robots and machines fighting against each other (the Robocop series, the Terminator series, Independance Day, the Men in Black series). After all, a man can only do so much. And one is relieved of the need for compassion when watching machines fight each other, or when watching ugly aliens die. One can just revel in the spectacle of destruction.

That period is still continuing (The Transformers is a recent example).

But the old "between man and man" action film is not dead, yet. Some of the biggest recent hits in Hollywood have been either sequels or remakes of classic action films. It is back to cops and gangsters (The Departed), the civic-sense hero versus the shut-them-down-villain (Die Hard 4.0) and now the man on the run versus the state: The Bourne Ultimatum.

Paul Greengrass is very well known for his last film, United 93. The handheld camera techniques he so effectively used in that film to portray the immediacy of doom is carried over to this film, and it is quite effective, at times.

After watching the latest action film, I used to ask myself: What will they do next? What novelty will there be in the next action film regarding the pyrotechnics, the gun battles and the chases?

In Die Hard 4.0, the novelty was in the speeding up of the action scenes, unbelievably (and laughably) bold acts of the hero, and in the (at times clumsy) editing where jump cuts were utilized to show a fast paced movement from various angles.

This is an action film in the true sense of the word. See the poster, for example. The hero is in motion, "in action", and that is true not just of the poster, it is true for the entire length of the film. It is not a stationary shot, it is a shot of movement.

In this film, the novelties (or the tricks) are many, and most of them work.

- The scenes are shot using handheld cameras with the shakiness adding to the realism and the tension.

- The scenes are very "happening" and fast and are edited using hundreds of jump cuts. Some of the scenes are hard to follow, but it works most of the time.

- The accompanying score is relentless and very well-paced.

- The sound effects are very loud, hyper-real and create an immediacy of destruction (e.g. in the destruction of the police car).

- The protagonist is very ruthless and skilled, and takes split second decisions. The action sequences are therefore whirlwind.

Director Greengrass realizes that this is an action film of the Twenty First century, exploiting the large metropolitan environments and the polished textures they provide for an action hero.

He drives this home by the numerous "eye in the sky" shots of the metro areas, the imagery of the vast concrete structures and the extreme density of a modern city.

The level of surveillance capability that today's governments have is probably exaggerated in this film, but the day is not far where the tracking of an individual or the analysis of a word spoken anywhere in the world on a wire will be available at the push of a button.

This film is the state of the art in the action genre.

Recommendation: Very Good.

1 comment:

Meg McNeaL said...

You said that then I could and I agree.
I just found out that there is going to be a HBO Follow up on "The Bourne"
series. For more information and to leave your comments please Go