Friday, August 17, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

Today, "The Bourne Ultimatum," the third film in the Bourne series, opened into general release, here in the UK. I felt a very strong desire to see the film immediately. Why? Because I worked on the film, as an extra, and I wanted to see if I could be seen in any of the scenes I was involved with. Additionally, I liked the previous two films in the series and I haven't been to the cinema in over a month. When I got home from work, I checked the show times at the local cinema, here in Bracknell. There was a show starting in twenty-five minutes. The one after that was at 8PM. I preferred the earlier time, but it would be a close thing if I could make it, without a car.
Although I wanted to have a shower and change clothes, I quickly decided that I didn't have the time. Putting my work shirt back on, I changed shoes and socks, grabbed my wallet, and jacket, then raced out the door. It felt exciting. I was a man with a mission, just like Jason Bourne, in the film. Checking the bus schedule at my local bus stop, I discovered there was only one before the film started. It was due at 6:06PM. The film was due to start at 6:15. It would be close. Suppose the bus was late? On the other hand, the cinemas in Britain show about ten minutes of advertisements, then several minutes of trailers, before the feature, so that would give me a cushion of time. I decided to walk to the next stop, which is on the main road into Bracknell. Two more bus routes use that stop, so I would increase my chances of catching one earlier.
Cutting across the sports centre field, I thought about all the things I had in common with the character, Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon. I was alone, in a foreign land, using public transportation. I even have the same initials! The coincidences are too much to contemplate. "The Bourne Ultimatum" is a significant film for me. I worked on it for eight days, the longest stint I have done on any film, so far. I played three different people in as many different scenes, so the odds of being seen were the highest for any big budget feature I have worked on, to date. For me, being seen is one of the rewards of doing extra work. The work is dull and you don't get a credit, so being seen is an added bonus. One scene I did on "Ultimatum," I walked down a corridor, passing Joan Allen, one of the principals in the film. Joan plays Pamela Landry. As it's just me and Joan in that corridor, I figured the odds of me being recognizable on screen were good. IF they used the shot.
Waiting at the next stop, I hoped someone I know would see me, as he or she drove into town. Maybe I would be offered a ride. At one point, a car drove by and honked, but it passed so quickly, I didn't recognize any of the people in it. The car pulled into the petrol station, further up the road. Should I go there and see who it is? If I did, I would risk missing the bus. I decided to play it safe and wait for the bus. The reviews of "Ultimatum," which I have read, so far, are very positive. I am tempted to say, "glowing." The Bourne films have been described as "intelligent thriller" and are thought to have raised the bar for the whole genre of espionage thrillers. Many see that influence on the latest Bond film, "Casion Royale," which seemed to be trying to imitate the Bourne style. Larushka Ivan-Zadeh (boy, I hate hyphenated names), in today's Metro newspaper, gives "Ultimatum" four out of five stars, indicating a "very good."
Thankfully, the bus was not late. I reached the last stop, in Bracknell town centre, with six minutes till show time. I walked, purposefully, toward the Odeon Cinema, taking advantage of a pedestrian short-cut. Approaching the cinema complex, I walked fast in order to get ahead of a slow moving group of young women. I managed to beat them to the escalator. Riding the escalator up to the box office, I wondered if there would be a long queue. Two minutes till show time. I hoped that the start time was early enough that a lot of people won't have managed to get home from work and get themselves together for an evening out, yet. As I reached the top of the escalator, looking ahead, I saw there was no one in the queue for the box office. Yes! Now, just let the show not be sold out.
Some UK cinemas still offer reserved seating. Tonight, the Odeon was in reserve seat mode. For Americans, it's a strange experience, as in America, all cinemas are open seating. As a former cinema manager, I think it's daft. Reserve seating makes buying a ticket a longer process, as the customer has to choose where he wants to sit. Also, you need an usher or two, at the auditorium, to seat people. I thought most cinemas, here, had abandoned it. I haven't run across reserved seating for a few years. The cashier, sadly a male, asked me if I wanted to purchase Premium Seating. I have never heard of that before. The Bracknell cinema used to be part of the UCI chain and never offered "Premium Seating." "What, exactly, is Premium seating?" I asked. Did I have time for this? As soon as he mentioned that the premium seats are at the back of the auditorium, I cut him off. "No thanks." I prefer sitting in front. I won't pay extra to sit in the back. Realizing that the screening was reserve seating, I told him I wanted to sit in front, adding, "as far front as you can get me," to make sure he understood. He was surprised, because, for some strange reason, most people seem to shun sitting in the front row. So much so that Odeon management have chosen to start selling seats in the back, for a premium. I have always preferred sitting in front. I get unlimited leg room and I can lose myself into the film. No distractions of people's heads in front. As everyone else is behind, I don't hear them talking as much. To me, it seems strange that people pay extra to sit in the front row at a concert, or at a play, but avoid it at the cinema. People, are strange.
Inside, a cute, female usher was taking the tickets. She smiled sweetly at me and I said, "gee, you seem happy," as I walked up to her. I don't remember her response. I didn't have time to flirt with her, I needed to get in to see my film. All that mattered to me was that she said, "screen five," and indicated the direction I should go. I rushed past the concession counter. No over-priced treats for me. I could do with saving the calories and the money. At the door to the auditorium, there was a sign posted, reading, "please wait to be seated." Oh for Pete's sake! It was the reserve seating again. No one was visible. I waited impatiently for the usher. Finally, he strolled into view. He walked me to my seat while the adverts were playing. I am perfectly capable of walking myself to my seat, thank you. The room was only about a quarter full. As I guessed, it was a bit early. I suspect the next showing, at 8PM, was much busier. I was seated all on my own, in the front row, dead center. That suited me fine. I made myself comfortable. At least I didn't miss the trailers. I like to see what's coming to the cinemas. I saw a trailer for "The Kingdom," which looks good, but mostly I was impatient for the feature to start. I wanted gratification and I wanted it right away.
The good news is that "The Bourne Ultimatum" is good. If I have any complaints, it's that the story is simple and there could have been more fight and chase sequences. At 115 minutes, the film bucks the trend of going over two hours. All of the character development is centered on Jason Bourne. Although some of the peripheral characters seem interesting, we don't get to know much about them. Scott Glenn, who plays Ezra Kramer, Director of the CIA, is shown so little, we hardly see him. I had heard a rumor that one of the scenes I did, with Scott Glenn, was dropped from the film and that's true. Julia Stiles is back, reprising her role as Nicky Parsons and thee is a hint of a "history" between her and Bourne, but that's all we get, a hint. Also, director Paul Greengrass, might have overused his trademark, handheld, jumbly camera shots. The most involved hand to hand fight sequence in the film is hard to follow, because the image jumps around on the screen so much. The same is true of the police car chase sequence. Greengrass also directed the previous Bourne film, "The Bourne Supremacy," (as well as "United 93") but I don't remember the camera jumping around so much in that one. It would be interesting to watch them both again and compare.
The bad news is that you can't see me in any of the film. As I mentioned above, gone is the scene I did with Scott Glenn. The Waterloo station scenes are so crowded and between the jumpy, hand-held camera, and the flashing editing, I can't find myself. Finally, my big scene with Joan Allen, which comes towards the end of the film, was cut so that it starts on screen after I have passed her. After all the rushing, I felt defeated. Still, I earned more money on that film than any other show business project I have worked on. It also got me filming at Shepperton and Pinewood studios, for the first time. While other reviewers have rated it the best Bourne film so far, I think I still prefer the first one (sorry Paul). In any case, it's a good thriller and worth seeing. I think it's better than "Casino Royale."

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