DVD Picks & Passes
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - Pick
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) – Pick
New this week on DVD, The Bourne Ultimatum catapults Jason Bourne into a remarkable elite among Hollywood screen heroes: those who have gone the distance for three straight films.
With The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum seals the achievement of a rare action franchise for thinking adults, combining gripping entertainment with an undercurrent of moral seriousness.
Ultimatum advances Bourne’s moral trajectory as he struggles not only to discover who he was but also to decide who he ought to be. For all his tactical victories, his defining moment is a moral one; his climactic confrontation with a former peer sent to kill him takes a dramatically different form from the deadly combat that all previous such confrontations have taken.
All of this is a notable level of subtext in what continues to be one of the most action-driven series of all time, with one heart-pounding set piece following another almost without interruption in locations all over the world.
As usual, Bourne’s first weapon is his brain. As with previous installments, when there is violence, it’s grim, brutal and direct, without the dramatic flourishes and conceits of fisticuffs in popcorn movies like Die Hard. A harrowing battle with a very tough opponent in Morocco may leave you exhausted rather than exhilarated, which is arguably a more moral approach to violence than the typical action movie. It’s a gripping, satisfying climax to a trilogy that stands as possibly the best-sustained such effort in the annals of Hollywood action moviemaking.
Also new on DVD, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix marks the fifth cinematic adaptation of the now-complete series of books.
As the film opens, the powers of darkness are gathering. Pretty much the whole wizarding world is against Harry, and even Dumbledore — until now a pillar of strength for Harry — seems strangely distant and aloof.
At the same time, the forces of light are also growing. The Order of the Phoenix, originally organized by Dumbledore in opposition to Voldemort’s Death Eaters, has been reassembled. At Hogwarts, Harry and Hermione organize a secret student society called “Dumbledore’s Army,” with Harry himself doing his best to prepare his fellow students for combat against dark powers.
The filmmakers have turned the longest book into the shortest film, with mixed results. On the plus side, Harry’s leading role is a major advance in proactive engagement from a protagonist who for too long has been largely passive. Harry may struggle with anger and doubt but he’s no longer just The Boy Things Happen To. He’s now The Boy Who Acts. It’s a welcome step forward in a wunderkind protagonist meant to be on the road to true heroism.
The Bourne Ultimatum: much intense hand-to-hand, firearm and vehicular violence, recurring glimpses of torture, execution/murder of a prisoner, some profanity and crass language. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: much fantasy action and violence, strong menace and frightening images, fantasy presentation of magic.
- December 9-15, 2007