Bourne Ultimatum

Jason Bourne rides again! And runs, and jumps, and shoots, and steals cars -- you know the drill. You don't really have to have seen the first two movies to watch this one, so long as you know the basics, but if you have seen them, you'll realize that they fit the last two together just like puzzle pieces. It was really cool, and so smooth it took me a minute to figure out exactly what they'd done and just how neat and tidy it was.

A lot of the same crew is back: director Paul Greengrass, unfortunately, still has his shaky-cams from The Bourne Supremacy, and is still using them, so whenever there's a chase, you not only have to pay really close attention to have any hope of understanding who's going where, but you also have to fight off nausea while you're doing that. The style works pretty well elsewhere -- it gives you the feeling that you're almost eavesdropping on conversations, which is great for the spy theme -- but for the chases, it's just dizzying.

But there's good news as far as who's back, too: Joan Allen returns as Pamela Landy, and Julia Stiles is back as the hapless Nicky, who's slightly less hapless here. Stepping in to the roles of main big bad guys (who have a very short life expectancy when Jason Bourne is around) we have David Strathairn (Fracture) as Noah Vosen, deputy director of the CIA, and Albert Finney (Amazing Grace and Erin Brockovich, just to mention two) as Dr. Albert Hirsch, who is totally spooky and committed, and apparently studied medical ethics under Joseph Mengele.

And of course Matt Damon is back, and even more wonderful than usual. Pardon my gushing. Jason Bourne is, of necessity, a man of few words, but Matt always seems to find ways to grow the character even without saying much, and he does an excellent job here. Okay, gushing's over.

Since Supremacy, Jason has been in search of his past, following his trail as much as he remembers it. And he's remembering more now, surreal little images of interrogation rooms and mysterious faces. He travels the globe chasing these clues, and the CIA can only act nervous about it. Seriously, he tells them where he's going to be and when, and they're lucky they can even get a glimpse of him, never mind kill him. Meanwhile, British journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine, Hot Fuzz, Cinderella Man) has found a high-level source willing to talk about Treadstone, and Jason Bourne's name is suddenly in the newspapers.

Then basically everyone runs into each other. Nicky runs into Jason in Madrid, home of her new CIA posting (I'm not sure why they didn't gently but firmly shove her out the door after Supremacy, but apparently they let her stay around for some reason), and she immediately sacrifices her career to help Jason -- not that that's any surprise to anyone, I'm guessing. Pam Landy runs into Noah Vosen (and that's a scary collision, let me tell you), Jason runs into several fellow-assassins (except the CIA calls them 'assets'), and lots of cars run into each other. Several bad guys also collide, but that's from Jason throwing them at each other. Jerky and blurry as they are, those hand-to-hand fight scenes are still intense.

Basically, the action never lets up. Even the quieter moments (generally my favorites) are tense, and you're just waiting for something to explode or someone to burst in. It's maybe a little too much action, a little too over the top in places, but overall, the Bourne series is still much more realistic than the Bond series. As much as I've liked the series, though, this is the place to end it, so I hope they don't try to squeeze out another one. I'm still annoyed that they killed off Marie, but at least they handled it well. Jason obviously hasn't forgotten her, or how she tried to help him rebuild his life.

Four idols here. It thankfully doesn't quite fall into the trap of just repeating everything from previous movies, though it comes too close for comfort sometimes. Still, one of the best scenes in the film is an encounter between Jason and a random agent on his trail that echoes the scene with Clive Owen from The Bourne Identity, and it's just about perfect. If you've seen that movie, you probably know the lines I mean, that somehow manage to catch the whole underlying theme in a few words, about who you are, where you draw the line between duty and morality, and how you can kill people and still (maybe) live with yourself. But enough philosophy -- the English major in me escaped for just a moment. Go see the film, and enjoy. And don't forget the dramamine.

Originally posted 8/2007. No offense to Jeremy Renner, but I'll just pretend that this was the last movie in the series and The Bourne Legacy is something entirely different.

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!


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