'Once' is genuine and deeply human

"Once" is a small indie that regrettably slipped under the radar. Well, almost. Though billed as a musical, it is far more. In fact, when thinking of musicals, "Chicago," "Rent," and "Dreamgirls" come to mind, films that can seem a bit overblown, requiring suspension of disbelief as songs interrupt dialogue and when the actors aren't singing, they're dancing.

"Once," in the alternative, is filled with moving songs, sung by Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Irish band Frames, and Marketa Irgtova, an Eastern European classically trained pianist. The music is so seamlessly blended into the touching narrative, free of contrivance, that it simply delights and never jars.

On occasion, a small film will appear that is a complete surprise. It's genuine, deeply human, and manages to capture the magic that can, inexplicably, define a relationship. The two actors have an unrequited chemistry, a friendship that grows and deepens, a connection that flirts with love but never arrives. All is delightful and wondrous. When the two sing (they actually have no names in the film), their voices blend beautifully, and the songs are as integral to the story as is the dialogue, proving to be a subtle and very effective way of communicating to one another and the audience.

This is a film that should not be missed. With all the strum und drang of summer film fare, "Once," uniquely, is in a category by itself. Unfortunately, we don't define such lovely movies as blockbusters. But then, perhaps that's beside the point. It's a nugget, evocative and surprising.

'The Bourne Ultimatum'

"The Bourne Ultimatum," directed by Paul Greengrass, who made "United 93," is atypical in so many ways. All too often franchise films loose air like a hot air balloon &

"Pirates of the Caribbean" is a good example &

until they descend in a heap of unfulfilled promises. It's as if all of the creative juices that made the first such a treat were expended and can't be marshaled for the following installments, no matter how forgiving the audience.

The Bourne trilogy has escaped that pattern and delivered solid entertainment with each film. The first, "Identity," is perhaps the most thoughtful in the sense that there is backstory to be told. It also has a serious relationship between Jason and the young German woman, Marie, who helps him escape to Switzerland. The second in the trilogy, "Supremacy," is a nice bridge and an engaging precursor to "Ultimatum" where Jason is now completely isolated, a man apart, who is waging a war against an agency that, for reasons that he can't sort out, is trying to kill him. With "Ultimatum," all that has come before is reduced to pure adrenaline. From the first frame it rocks: the dialogue is purely utilitarian; the intense chase scenes, harrowing and wonderfully choreographed; the camera work top drawer, with much use made of handheld steadycam.

But there's more to "Ultimatum" than a simple action movie, designed to produce that familiar "Die Hard" rush.

Embedded in the third (likely not the final) "Bourne" film are some ideas, though never made explicit, which comprise a poignant and relevant subtext to our post-9/11 democracy.

As the film evolves, there is a disturbing question that begins to creep into the plot: we are involved in a war with not a nation state but with a loose network of terrorists who are intent on harming the West by any means necessary. Our challenge is: will we use any means necessary to respond while ignoring the fact that we are a nation of laws, bound by international agreements and the tenets of the Geneva Convention? Will we murder and torture, jettison habeas corpus, surveil without warrants &

all because the means justify the ends? And who will we be as a people in the end if we violate our Constitution and our closely held principles? And then there's the question of how much freedom are we willing to give up in the name of an ill-defined notion of safety? The answer to that question has yet to be decided.

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