Bourne Ultimatum Analysis

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  • 1. The Bourne Ultimatum AnalysisBy Marcus Lea
  • 2. The film opens with a soundtrack of classic music. Because of the dramatic sound ofthe music, it conveys the idea that drama and action is going to entail when the firstscene opens. Because of the low tones of the soundtrack, the music foreshadows thatthe protagonist (Jason Bourne) is in danger, and that he will be in danger throughoutthe film. Also, the low tones could suggests Bourne’s dark side, that he is not perfectand is, or at least has been, a killer. The pace of the soundtrack is quick. This could beargued to imply that a chase is happening or will happen soon. It also could be arguedthat the director (Paul Greengrass) uses the quick beats of the music to symboliseBourne’s heartbeat, and therefore furthers the implication that action is happeningand that Bourne is in danger. One could argue that the dramatic sound of the music isa key signifier of films in the thriller genre. This therefore suggests that, for the mostpart, the film will follow most of the key codes and conventions: flawed characters,violence etc. This is key because it conveys the idea of what the audience areexpecting from the film before it even starts properly. When the location of the firstscene comes onto the screen, a tapping noise accompanies it. This noise is very harshand militaristic. This can be argued to suggest the character of the protagonist, that heis harsh and adaptable, because of the militaristic link. Therefore the audience caninfer that Bourne is practical, adaptable and resourceful. The noise is also reminiscentof other films that include spying or military, and therefore could convey the genre ofthe film.
  • 3. The film opens with the location of the forthcoming scene -‘Moscow, Russia’ - fading quickly onto a black background.The colour of the words is white. This contrasts with the blackbackground and stands out clearly. One could argue thatbecause white and black have connotations with good andbad respectively, and because the white words are in a smallfont in the corner of the frame, that Greengrass is conveyingthe idea that there is more bad than good, and that Bourne isup against it to defeat the bad people. Also, because the whitewriting is so clear and bright, one could suggest that thedirector is imply that Bourne stands out from his enemies. Thelocation information is written in a militaristic font. Thissuggests the genre of the film and also conveys the idea ofviolence.
  • 4. The scene opens with a close-up of Jason Bourne’s feet staggering over snow.The camera is handheld, this means that it sways and shakes. This suggestsurgency because the camera angle is very humanistic and is shaking in asimilar way to how Bourne is staggering. This could be argued to connect theaudience to the protagonist. Because the handheld camera is so like someonechasing him, it gives the impression that Bourne is being followed.Alternatively, because the camera is following Bourne, one could argue thatBourne is being presented as an antagonistic because the audience arechasing him. This confirms the ideas conveyed by the opening soundtrack andthe editing; that Bourne is in danger and in a chase. The camera angle showsa close-up of Bourne’s feet. This conveys the idea that Bourne is runningaway. This then suggests that the protagonist is non-confrontational andsecretive. One could argue that the director uses the close-up of Bourne’sfeet staggering away as an extended metaphor for him running away fromwhat he used to be: a killer. The close-up of Bourne’s feet show that he has alimp. This conveys the idea that the protagonist is imperfect. Bourne isdressed in black. Because black is a universal symbol of evil, this could beargued to symbolise Bourne’s flaws and his aptitude for violence.
  • 5. The volume of the music increases as the scene fades intofocus. This implies that the forthcoming scene includes actionbecause of the rise in volume up to a crescendo. The fact thatthe scene fades into focus conveys the idea of ignorance andinnocence, because the action is being viewed for the firsttime. Also because the transitional effect of the fade isreminiscent of an eye opening, the idea conveyed by thecamera angle is continued. Also, because the scene fades inquickly from the introduction scene, the two scenes aresuggested to be linked, therefore locating the scene as‘Moscow, Russia.’. The only sounds when the scene opens areBourne’s footsteps upon the snow and his laboured, heavybreathing. His heavy breathing suggest Bourne’s fragility. Italso suggests his vulnerability, physically and mentally.
  • 6. The next passage of note is a close-up of a running tap, then cuts to aflashback. The motivated cut conveys the idea of Bourne being mentallyunstable, that anything might trigger his lost memories. This adds to thepreviously discussed idea that Bourne is flawed and is unstable. Because thecamera shot that frames the shaking tape, and because the camera angle is apoint of view shot, suggests that Bourne’s body is injured and his minddamaged. This once again suggests Bourne’s fragility. In the flashback thepicture is slightly distorted. Therefore the passage is quite disorientating. Thissuggests the state of Bourne’s mind, how distorted and confused he is. It alsoconveys the idea of how distorted and damaged his memories are and howsevere his amnesia is. During the flashback, the director uses quick cuts thatjump around to suggest the lack clarity and order in Bourne’s memories.Greengrass also uses quick cuts from ‘reality’ to flashback to convey the ideathat Bourne is having trouble separating the two. It also distorts Bourne’s‘reality’ and makes it disorientating as well as the flashbacks.
  • 7. The use of water as the trigger for Bourne’s flashback links to the actionhappening in the flashback. Because of the brutal torture depicted in theflashback, the audience are conveyed the brutal, inhumane nature of Bourne’sadversaries. This then, for the first time, means that Bourne is suggested asbeing good because he is against people who use violence and torture to getthere way. The setting in the flashback is bleak and clinical. Also, because thesetting is so institutionalized, one could suggest that this is the first real hint towhat type of establishment did this to Bourne: the government. Because thebleak, unwelcoming setting has connotations of being clinical, and because theword ‘clinical’ suggests medicine and science, one could argue that Greengrassis inferring that experiments went on it the plain setting, and that Bournehimself is an experiment. Because of the idea that Bourne was experimentedon, this conveys the idea that the people who did these experiments areinhuman and evil. It also dehumanises Bourne, something that is veryuncomfortable for the audience. During the flashback, the dialogue is slightlymuted and distant. As before, this could suggest that Bourne’s memories aredistorted and damaged. Also, because the dialogue sounds distant, one couldargue that the director is suggesting that these memories are suppressed andpainful.
  • 8. The next passage of note starts with an over-the-shoulder shot, then cuts to a mid shot of Bourneholding a gun, then to a mid shot of a Russian policeman and then back to Bourne. The passage openswith an over-the-shoulder shot, showing Bourne in front of the camera and the policeman in the back.Because the camera is positioned behind Bourne, one could suggest that Bourne is protecting theaudience. This therefore presents him as a heroic character who stands up against those who abusetheir power etc. This is the second time in the opening that Bourne is presented as being good, and thefirst time that he has been presented as being heroic. The next camera angle in the passage is a midshot of Bourne holding a gun. The camera is swaying slightly through this passage, but a lot less than ithas been. This suggests that the action is nearly over. It also conveys the idea that Bourne is in controlbecause the camera shake is decreasing and therefore he is calming down. The passage then cuts to thepoliceman. The camera is still swaying slightly, but unlike Bourne, the policeman is moving all over theframe. This suggests that he is nervous and that he sees Bourne as threat. Because Bourne has recentlybeen presented as a heroic character, the audience are pleased that Bourne is a threat, because hetherefore is a threat to those who are evil etc. As with Bourne, the mid shot frames the policeman asbeing (mostly) in the middle of the frame. This therefore suggests that he is good and is just doing hisjob. The use of the gun as a prop suggests that the film is going to mostly be a traditional thriller and isgoing to keep to most codes and conventions. The gun is a signifier of violence. Therefore when Bournedoesn’t uses it and puts it down, one can infer that he tries not to use violence if at all possible. Thisthen presents Bourne as being human and having morals.
  • 9. The music decreases in volume when Bourne get the gun. Thissuggests that he is not in danger and that the action is nearly over.However, because the music decreases in volume instead of stoppingcompletely, the director is suggesting that the danger and action mightnot be over. Bourne and the policeman talk to each other in Russian.This suggests Bourne’s adaptability and that he can survive and copeanywhere. Bourne’s first words in are: ’My argument is not with you.’This implies that he has morals; that he is not just a killer, that he onlykills those he has too, not innocent bystanders. It also introduces theidea of a mission: which is a code and convention of the thriller genre.This once again suggests that Bourne is humane, that he has a reasonfor his actions. The only editing of note is the motivated cuts betweenBourne and the policeman during their conversation. This suggeststheir focus on each other and that they are oblivious to the outsideworld.