Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bourne again (three times)

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum

Probably the least informative book/film titles ever, and they remind me of a classic tennis commentary where there was talk of the Edberg forehand succeeding in getting the ball "over the Lendl head". However it must be said that the series (or 'franchise' as its techies would have it) has received a new lease of life. Paul Greengrass has cooked up the last two and there's plenty of sedition going around, and rightly so.

Greengrass... The name was not just familiar from Blood Sunday and Flight 93... There was something else...

Of course! The second name, the co-author, on Spycatcher. He's been immersed in this stuff. And now he has the opportunity to play around with technology and the ended Cold War in making the updated adaptations of Robert Ludlum's fairly indigestible airport thrillers.

Actually, the whole rogue spy shtick is perfect for these lawless anti-terrorist times and Greengrass lays it on thick in ...Ultimatum (2007), from the CIA staking out a Guardian journalist and chasing him to Waterloo Station with murderous intent, to the use of Maghrebi assassins (one of whom uses capoeira moves, maybe a subtle comment on the Brazilianness of Jean Charles de Menezes?), to the idea that waterboarding your own man makes him into an indispensible 'asset' and killing machine.

The action sequences are quite brilliant (particularly the Waterloo scene and the Tangiers medina scene) and Matt Damon has the breathless deadpan killing machine down pat. His counterpart in the earlier version of this story was Richard Chamberlain. Chalk and cheese. Damon drives (some of) his own stunt cars. And pretty well too. Check that out on the DVD extras.

Otherwise I liked the sense of technology being a wild beast that the dark forces of spydom had in no way tamed. They're civil servants after all: some couldn't be bothered reading up on the latest applications of Bluetooth, others are just waiting for their retirement payoff. And technology can be used to bamboozle as well as to chase. A necessary evil, and this film did a great job of showing some real-time usage, like Jason Bourne buying a prepaid phone at Waterloo Station and dropping it into the journalist's pocket, then calling him on it while the CIA bodies yell "how the hell did he get another phone!"

Damn, why do I never think of things like that when I'm at a station with so many kiosks full of cutting edge apps?

In all, a rollercoaster ride that wows with humanity rather than CGI. That's a good thing. That it gets all subversive on asses is another plus. That the Guardian gets such a plug - well, it's nice to see a real newspaper rather than The Daily Planet or such like. It also makes you consider the reality of rendition flights and security services monitoring the media.

Hmm, perhaps I'd better stop discussing this...

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