Dear Mr Greengrass,
I’m writing again, even though I never got a response to my last letter. Not that I necessarily expected one – you’re a busy man, what with last year’s United 93 which critics and viewers adored – but after the criticism that followed The Bourne Supremacy one might have thought you’d have reconsidered a little this time around. Or they’d have hired a new director. I’d never have thought I’d be stifling nausea through another of your films three years on.
There is much potential in the character of Jason Bourne, and you’re obviously fond of him. The amnesiac killer with a conscience, on a journey of self discovery and revenge… what’s not to like? Who wouldn’t enjoy watching his travels around Europe (seemingly unbothered by passport control), all the while offing any random bad guys who cross his path and forever coming up with just one more lead to follow straight back (of course) to his former controllers in the CIA? Super viewing, and his fighting skills make him a winning leading man to be sure.
I wonder, though, if you had time to consider my suggestions after your last Bourne movie? I was a little narky, I admit, but I don’t think my criticisms were out of line and I’d kinda hoped you might have adapted your style a little more for Bourne Mk III. Sure, there are those (myself included) who applauded your direction of Bloody Sunday, and thought the handheld camerawork and snappy editing encouraged a ‘documentary feel’ that truly added to its immersiveness. I even own a copy on DVD, although I bought it ex-rental, sorry. Alfonso Cuarón used similar techniques to stunning effect in Children of Men, so perhaps you might feel unfairly singled out when reading responses to your latest handheld abomination.
It’s not that the underlying story doesn’t have the potential to be a first rate spy thriller – it’s really that your insistence on the cinematographic techniques you so clearly love inhibits the audience’s ability to actually see your creation. Bourne is rarely in focus, certainly not for more than a second or so, and his fight scenes are so rapidly edited and poorly framed as to be unwatchable. I’m not the first to wonder what it is you don’t want us to see.
In addition to the ‘visual style’, your use of flashback as exposition is clumsy and overbearing. If Bourne spent half as much time thinking about his past as you suggest, we’d be done already as an assassin would have killed him in one of his out-of-body periods. Important plot points are reiterated – just in case we didn’t get it the first time – and this retreading of ground already covered makes the 111 minutes running time seem far longer. Finally, there are several major recurring characters in this film, and yet you assume your audience will have seen the past two and give new viewers no character data at all. Some may wonder who these people are, and others will just blithely watch without ever knowing the rich history they and Bourne share. I wonder if they will enjoy it, though, as trying to keep up with the lack of introductions may distract them from attempting to follow your visuals.
It’s not that I don’t think you’ve got it in you, Mr Greengrass, it’s just that I’d love to see what you work so hard (and spend so much money) to create. As things stand, I spend most of my time suppressing my gag reflex and trying to stop the vertigo. Enough is enough.