The Bourne Ultimatum feels like the final chapter in a deluxe trilogy, and hopefully the series will take the high road and let things be. The franchise, first helmed by Doug Lyman with 2002’s The Bourne Identity, has really come out of left field and proven to be one of the premiere action franchises of the past twenty years. The lone man against a corrupt government has never been a tough sell, but the Bourne series has really reinvented it with well-thought characters and breathtaking action sequences. From a purely visceral standpoint, The Bourne Ultimatum may be the clincher for fans who want a literal two-hour chase film.
The screenplay doesn’t deviate far from what has made the series a success from the outset. Amnesiac Jason Bourne (Damon) is still on the run and looking for clues about his past. He is viewed by the American government as a lethal weapon and a renegade. Bourne just wants answers. Fortunately, Bourne has the help of someone on the inside, Nicky Parsons (Stiles). On his tail this time are Noah Vosen (Strathairn) and Pamela Landy (Allen), whose teaming up may not be without corruption in and of itself. The two utilize all of the state-of-the-art resources in their hunt for Bourne, who consistently outsmarts them at every turn. Globe-trotting on revenge alone, Bourne continues his quest for the truth.
Director Paul Greengrass returns with a leaner, more intense film than 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy. He is a master of pacing, never letting a scene overstay its welcome. He progresses the story in workman-like fashion, all the while fleshing out the new characters satisfactorily. We understand everyone’s motives, and that’s one of the many reasons these films work so well. The downside, particularly in this installment, is that Greengrass’ shaky camera is truly out of control. Not even simple dialogue sequences get the tripod treatment, and it becomes exhausting by the third act.
Bourne himself is someone we can all identify with a root for. Save for his survival of a surefire lethal car crash in a stolen police car, he always stays balanced and doesn’t enter superhero mode. He’s smart, cunning, and resourceful. The centerpiece of The Bourne Ultimatum, a hand-to-hand battle between Bourne and one of the government’s “assets,” is one of the most breathtakingly authentic action sequences in years. Damon has played the character consistently in all three films and, while some may view the depiction as robotic, I see him as the personification of a man who truly has nothing to lose in his journey for justice.
With a memorable, pulsating score by John Powell and great supporting work from Strathairn and Allen, The Bourne Ultimatum is (or at least should be) the capper to an amazing trilogy. Greengrass has really taken things to a new level and delivers the most action-packed and smartest film of the summer. If you’ve come this far with Bourne, you deserve to finish the ride. Greengrass and company make it well worth your time to do so.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 111 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action.
Theatrical Release: August 3, 2007
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Tony Gilroy & Scott Z. Burns & George Nolfi. Based upon the novel by Robert Ludlum.
Cast: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez