The Bourne Ultimatum

The nominations:

  • Achievement in film editing: Christopher Rouse
  • Achievement in sound editing: Karen Baker Landers, Per Hallberg
  • Achievement in sound mixing: Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis

The Black-and-White:

It both astonishes and gratifies me that The Bourne Ultimatum received, count ’em, three (3) Academy Award nominations! Not that I am an unqualified advocate for this particular film (and in fact I am not), but rather that an unapologetic action film gains some attention from an Academy fixated on drama and gloom.

A hybrid synopsis of the film from IMDB:

Bourne is once again brought out of hiding, this time inadvertently by London-based reporter Simon Ross who is trying to unveil Operation Blackbriar–an upgrade to Project Treadstone–in a series of newspaper columns. Bourne sets up a meeting with Ross and realizes instantly they’re being scanned. Information from the reporter stirs a new set of memories, and Bourne must finally, ultimately, uncover his dark past. Whilst Pamela Landy has decided to leave Bourne alone, CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen has other plans. He believes that Bourne is still dangerous and must be eliminated, before he finds out his true identity and takes the CIA down with him.

I’ll focus my comments solely with respect to the categories nominated:

Achievement in film editing: it’s not the editing department’s fault that The Bourne Ultimatum should not win in this category. In fact, it’s possible they really are the most deserving film! The problem is that it is impossible to tell! Here’s my beef: the film was entirely shot handheld, and that was a terrible, terrible mistake. Instead of investing the time (and money) to create the breathtaking action sequences we all crave to see when we see a Bourne movie, they decided they could fake it by always have the handheld cameras shaking like mad while shooting the movie. You can hide some completely average action sequences this way, and it’s just an injustice to the film and the audience to employ such a cheap trick.

How this feeds into editing is that it is no longer a challenge to edit together sequences in a clever fashion. Who the hell will notice any discontinuities when everything is shaking like mad anyway? I’m not saying the editing was inferior, but rather that I can’t tell. So as far as an Oscar goes: sorry, close but no cigar.

As for sound editing and mixing, well, maybe. The movie sure as hell was LOUD. LOUD, I say. REALLY, REALLY LOUD. Having said that (LOUDLY), it all held together, and certainly supported the dramatic tension which courses through the veins of any Bourne movie. I haven’t seen the other nominees in this category yet, so I reserve final judgment. However it wouldn’t be an injustice for The Bourne Ultimatum to win in these categories.

One last parting reminder for the makers of Bourne movies: for the next installment in this series (if there ever is one), put the damn camera on a tripod, and spend the money needed to make a proper action movie. Your loyal audience deserves it.

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