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Friday, August 03, 2007

The Bourne Trilogy

I first heard of Bourne when I was a little kid. My mother was watching the original 1988 movie and I decided to sit and watch a bit. I was young and could not understand much. In fact, I could not fathom the fact that the main character didn't know who he was. My mother tried to explain about his memory loss but I don't think I got it. I did remember the name Bourne and the book's author, Robert Ludlum. Time ticked away. When the new Bourne Identity came out in 2002, for some reason I stayed away. Likewise, I didn't see the second film, The Bourne Supremacy in 2004. However, over the last two years I caught bits of both films on tv and was quite impressed with what I saw; both films appeared stylish with some good acting. A few weeks ago after I saw the trailer of the third film, I decided to watch the previous two films to better prepare for today's release of The Bourne Ultimatum.

The Bourne Identity (2002, Director Doug Liman): Rating 9/10

A body floating in the water. And so it starts. A man in search of his identity. His first clues lead him to a personal bank account in Switzerland under the name of Jason Bourne. He finds that he owns money in various currencies and multiple passports. Who could have so many identities? The question keeps bothering him. While his memories can't dig up the past, his physical body starts defending him and acting like a programmed entity. He quickly becomes a target and needs to escape. Bourne comes across Marie, a young woman in need of money. In exchange for $10,000, Marie agrees to take Jason to Paris. Now, the two are hunted together. The shots appear to be called from the C.I.A headquarters in Langley by Conklin. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

A very impressive start to the trilogy with the right balance of action and story. The acting is top notch with Matt Damon providing the exact precise coldness needed for his part. Franka Potente is wonderfully expressive in her portrayal of Marie -- her expressions of shock at seeing Bourne kill a man are something that most Hollywood films don't feature. Chris Cooper seems to be perfectly at ease playing the slimy double agent who can't be trusted.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Director Paul Greengrass): Rating 8.5/10

The film kicks off with Bourne and Marie relaxing in exotic Goa. But India was never going to be the ideal hideout anyhow. It's geographical closeness to Russia makes it a vulnerable target to anyone on the run from the Russians. Ofcourse, that is something that Bourne had not accounted for -- he always thought his enemies were his own countrymen and had no idea of a Russian plot. And it is precisely a Russian threat that finds Bourne and eliminates his love. A new chapter in his hunt starts with him digging up a past involving Berlin and Eastern European espionage. In the end, Jason Bourne moves closer to understanding his past.

The film is thin in story compared to the first film and focuses more on action. Ofcourse, all the action is very well filmed. Credit for that goes to Paul Greengrass who has crafted some fine moments in this film, especially the car chase sequence in Moscow. The addition of Joan Allen as Pamela Landy is a real coup as Allen's strong expressions are a pleasure to watch.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007, Director Paul Greengrass): Rating 10/10

The film starts off with the final moments of The Bourne Supremacy with a wounded Bourne on the run in Moscow. Six weeks later, the action shifts to the U.S when the C.I.A are determined to eliminate Bourne, despite what Pamela Landy has to say. Turin, London, Madrid, Tangier are a few exotic spots before Bourne returns to New York to finally meet his past.

Paul Greengrass has taken some of the best elements from The Bourne Supremacy (car chases, fights) and combined them with the brilliant use of close-up shots used in his United 93 and crafted a breath-taking fast paced masterpiece! The action in this film is non-stop with the close-up cameras ensuring that the audience is constantly focused only on the right details. For example, Bourne and Nicky (Julia Stiles) are talking about the past in a Spanish cafe. The camera focuses on Bourne's face and we can see his eyes and ears are trying to keep tabs on what is going on around them. In the background, we can hear the usual cafe noises (like cups being placed on the counter, customers talking) while the camera stays focused on the two of them. And then the camera quickly jumps to show Nicky's finger nervously rubbing the cup. She knows about his past but he doesn't remember anything and her nervousness comes across in this one shot, even though her face doesn't give much away. We are only concerned with the two of them, so why should we be forced to see long shots of the cafe and the waitress as is often done in most Hollywood action films?

In Tangier, Bourne comes across the strongest agent (Desh) yet sent to kill him. During the chase, the background music plays at a fast tempo to stay in sync with the on-screen action. But when Bourne squares off with Desh (Joey Ansah), the background music stops so that we can hear the raw emotions of the tough knuckled fist fight. The hard hitting fight is just one of the several perfectly filmed action sequences in this film.

It was a real pleasure to be lost in the technologically advanced espionage world of Jason Bourne, Pamela Landy, Nicky and Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). The acting is perfect throughout with David Strathairn and Joan Allen providing perfect opponents for each other. This is how action and thriller films should be made!!

Overall: All the three films have been superb with the third one being the best of the lot.

1 comment:

Heidi B said...

I loved the first film. I was really impressed with the storyline and the acting.

I liked the second but was upset that they killed Marie (Franka Potente) becasuse she is one of my favorite actresses. The car scene was great...right up there with The Italian Job (remake).

I have yet to see the third. I purposely didn't read your comments about "Bourne Ultimatum" because I didn't want to spoil any surprise. But the fact that you gave it a 10/10...I may just go and see it after work tonight.