The Bourne Ultimatum

The Bourne Ultimatum is the third and possibly final installment in the Bourne trilogy. It is certainly the last in the first phase of the series as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finally learns his true identity and recovers important and disturbing memories. The first two installments were gritty and kinetic actioners. Ultimatum is no different.

At the opening of the film, Bourne is still on the CIA’s most wanted list but other priorities have proven more urgent. In his quest to talk to anybody who may know anything about his past, Bourne stumbles into an operation. Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) is running a highly illegal assassination division–actually the successor to the program that created Jason Bourne–and becomes obsessed with catching Bourne, as well as covering up the company’s dirty deeds. To that end he brings in Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) who unsuccessfully hunted the rogue assassin in the last film. Her part in the plan is to take the blame if they do get caught.

The key element in this film is Matt Damon’s performance. He’s terrific. Handling both the action and the drama with ease, Damon has established himself as one of the best actors of his generation.

David Strathairn is given a fairly straight forward bureaucratic villain which he plays with smooth confidence and ease. He’s not really stretching here, however. Joan Allen is good as Pamela Landy, but she’s done too many of these type rolls before. And Julia Stiles is good as Nickey Parsons an operative who was on Landy’s team, trying to catch Bourne the last time out. She obviously had some kind of history with Bourne before his memory was erased. We don’t know what it was but we can see it in her performance.

Paul Greengrass takes the directing chores and uses his signature documentary like style to good effect. Handheld cameras, natural lighting, and gritty film stock all add to the unrelenting tension. It’s a tremendous achievement.

This will probably not be the last Bourne film. They’ve made too much money and as I’ve explained in other reviews, the more money there is in any project, the fewer risks get taken. It’s hard to believe that the producers can maintain this level of quality. But don’t despair: these three films will always be there. No matter how silly or awful the Bond films got over the years, you could always go back to Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger to remember how great Bond could be. The Bourne Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum with serve the same purpose.

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