Paul Greengrass has catapulted to the front ranks of action directors with the latest entry in the Bourne saga. Greengrass got his start in British documentary television and exploded on the film scene with the intense movie BLOODY SUNDAY. He then moved to the second film in the Bourne franchise, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, which was a step up on the first very-good film in the series. Then, Greengrass directed one of the most visceral pieces of filmmaking I have ever seen--UNITED 93. That film, though extremely tough to watch, is an extraordinary piece of storytelling, totally riveting and down-right scary at times. But it's Greengrass's controlled direction coupled with his unflinching hand-held camera techniques that shook me while I sat in the theater. Building on his style that he used in his fist few movies, the work he did in UNITED 93 is monumental. Now, with THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, Greengrass establishes himself as one of the best pure-action filmmakers alive. I have enjoyed all of the films in this terrific series, but this latest one is the best. Matt Damon kicks a lot of ass in the lead role yet again, and the many story threads developed in the first two pictures are all tied together in an extremely satisfying way. Damon and Greengrass have both said that they're done with this franchise, but hopefully the critical acclaim and $400 million worldwide will get them back to do another entry. As long as they bring back screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who has shaped the entire franchise over the last few years, I am all for seeing more Bourne adventures.
But what blew me away about ULTIMATUM was how Greengrass ratcheted up the intensity from the very first scene. It's like being on a rocket ship for 2 hours; the film never stops to catch it's breath, is refreshingly spare with dialogue (what little is said is all that needs to be said), each action set-piece exsisted in service of the story, not in place of it, and the hand-held cinematography was downright sensational. A few shots sort of defy normal cameraman logic. And the incredible car chase in NYC is positively riveting; it's up there with the best chases of all time. Greengrass brings the audience into the action whenever possible, using fast cuts and herky-jerky camera moves not as a distraction, but rather as a way to make the viewer feel like you're right in the middle of the chaos that Bourne is creating or evading. I love this style of action filmmaking (Peter Berg acheived the same heightened sense of realism in his new film The Kingdom) and I hope that directors continue to use it in the future.