The Bourne Ultimatum

Movie: Directed by Paul Greengrass.

Inciting Event: After escaping Moscow, Bourne sees an article about himself by London reporter Simon Ross. He contacts Ross and asks to meet at Waterloo Station.

For all intents and purposes, there is no new conflict in this story. It picks up directly following the end of Bourne Supremacy. Bourne’s new goals are basically continuations of those in previous film, with the new addition of his desire to discover the truth about his memories of being inducted into the Treadstone program.

Ross is his first clue to finding someone who knows the truth.

First Plot Point: CIA Assistant Director Noah Vosen stakes out Waterloo station and has Simon Ross shot, despite Bourne’s best efforts to keep him alive. Bourne takes Ross’s papers, which offer clues about Ross’s contact Neal Daniels, a Blackbriar agent in Madrid. Bourne then clashes with CIA “asset” Paz and escapes.

Because the story basically already started deep into its conflict, there really isn’t a tremendously clear delineation between Normal World and main conflict here. However, this is where Vosen first encounters Bourne and their personal showdown begins.

First Pinch Point: Bourne discovers Daniels’ Madrid safehouse has been cleaned out. Vosen sends operatives after him. Nicky—Bourne’s former handler—arrives first and covers for him. They escape together.

This isn’t a tremendous pinch, but it does provide a solid turning point in the plot.

Midpoint: Bourne and Nicky follow Daniels to Tangier, where he is assassinated by another operative, Desh. Bourne kills Desh, leaving the CIA to believe he and Nicky are both dead.

Again, not a great Midpoint. It doesn’t strongly turn the story from reaction to action (mostly, because Bourne has been in control of the conflict from the start).

Second Pinch Point: From here on, the plot points become pretty indistinct. The major pinch point happening here is aimed more at Pam Landy, who is subtly opposing Vosen’s search for Bourne. Vosen and CIA director Ezra Kramer plot to blame Blackbriar on Landy if it goes south.

Meanwhile, Bourne contemplates the nature of himself and laments to Nicky that he can still see the faces of all those he ever killed. He tells her she, too, will now have to go on the run—while he returns home to discover how he came to be inducted into Treadstone.

Third Plot Point: After a manic car chase through NYC, Bourne crashes into Paz’s car. Even though Paz survives, Bourne makes the choice not to kill him and instead walks away, headed back to discover his origins.

There’s no low point to be found here, mostly because Bourne isn’t on much of an emotional journey in this story.

Climax: Bourne tracks down Dr. Albert Hirsch, the mastermind behind Treadstone and Bourne’s own brainwashing. During the confrontation, Bourne finally remembers his induction and the techniques Hirsch used to break his mind.

Climactic Moment: While escaping, Bourne encounters Paz on the rooftop. Paz demands to know why Bourne didn’t kill him when he had the chance. He doesn’t shoot, but just as Bourne is jumping off the roof into the water, Vosen appears and shoots him in the back.

Resolution: Landy exposes Blackbriar to Congress. Nicky, in hiding, hears a report that Bourne’s body is missing—and she knows he has survived.

Notes: This installment in the Bourne trilogy is far weaker than the previous two films for the simple reason that Bourne has no arc. The wonderful interiority of the first two stories is relegated almost entirely to the background here. The structure also suffers as a result, since it struggles to maintain a balance of high and low moments, victories and defeats.

Another aspect of this problem is the fact that Bourne is largely cast in the antagonist role. He is the one in control of and driving the conflict from the very beginning, with the CIA operatives scrambling to keep up with him.

This is actually an interesting twist, since, from a certain perspective, Bourne is the bad guy in these films. However, whatever it gains originality, it loses in emotional power, since audiences care far less about the emotional journeys of Vosen and Landy than they do of Bourne himself.

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