(Clip from "The Bourne Ultimatum")
ANN CURRY, co-host:
Oh, my gosh, somebody needs a time-out. That is, of course, the Sexiest Man Alive, also known as Matt Damon, from the blockbuster film "The Bourne Ultimatum," and also the addendum movies that have come along with that. And on Monday this very talented and slightly violent actor, screenwriter, producer will be stopping by our studios to tell us what's next for him and for his character, Jason Bourne. OK, OK, you can stop.
David Strathairn's got the Midas touch when it comes to leading men. George Clooney, his costar in "Good Night, and Good Luck," was People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" last year, and Matt Damon, his costar in "The Bourne Ultimatum," was "Sexiest Man Alive" this year. Does that mean Martin Short, Strathairn's costar in "The Spiderwick Chronicles," due out next year, will be "Sexiest Man Alive" in '08? "I don't know about that," Strathairn said, laughing. "He might be the sexiest underworld gremlin creature." A Williams grad whose impressive resume includes several John Sayles films, Strathairn (inset) said it was a big treat to work with Damon in "The Bourne Ultimatum." "Matt embodies something I haven't heard articulated overtly," Strathairn told us. "He was able to imbue the Bourne character with an amazing amount of integrity because, really, that's something that emanates from him."
Matt Damon gives a killer performance in the jittery, edgy Ultimatum.
Though he was invented by author Robert Ludlum in 1980, Jason Bourne, as played by Matt Damon, belongs to the post-9/11 world. Alone and paranoid, the amnesiac assassin battles rogue elements of the U.S. government. And Damon, who wields silence like a master, locates the heart, soul, and shame of this coerced American killing machine. "He stripped out all the machismo, gun-toting, conventional clichés of the action-adventure hero," raves director Paul Greengrass in a commentary, "and brought instead a quality of humanity, a quality of truthfulness."
Greengrass deserves credit for keeping the runaway narrative--which culminates with Bourne confronting his masters in New York--on the rails. The DVD's seven deleted scenes (surely, there must be more?) are most notable for showcasing loose ends and excised characters. Even if the secret behind Bourne's true identity is ultimately anticlimactic, the chase scenes are remarkable. The entire trilogy, in fact, amounts to one frenetic chase, but the set pieces in Ultimatum--especially the thrilling cat-and-mouse sequence at London's Waterloo station--raise the cinematic bar. Fortunately, the films remain a treat at home, especially since the remote's pause button allows your barraged synapses more time to appreciate the gloriously vertiginous action.
Those magnificent episodes, which Greengrass likens to "violent ballets," don't completely gloss over Ultimatum's subversive politics. The British director says that the films "express all our worst paranoid fantasies about what goes on in secret in our name." Bourne is driven by both anger at and complicity in his government's misdeeds. That ambivalence makes him the perfect action hero for our time. A-
Unfortunately, that's the inevitable drawback of being in love with film. When you let yourself spend a year or more believing that a particular film might actually provide the kind of cinematic hit that reminds you why you're obsessed with the form in the first place (and what film fan doesn't live in that constant state of hope?) you really are setting yourself up for a bit of a fall. What makes it all worthwhile is when said film doesn't just meet expectations, it exceeds them to such a degree that it almost ruins you for going to the cinema.
The Bourne Ultimatum is such a film. I said it would be the film of the year back in January. I said it again at the start of the summer and, now that we're nearing the end of 2007, I'm going to say it once more: The Bourne Ultimatum is the film of the year. Since seeing it for the first time back in July, my gut reaction to every film - even the good ones - has been: "Yeah, but it's not Bourne, is it?"