The Bourne Ultimatum ***1/2
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Written by Tony Gilroy, Tom Stoppard, Scott Burns and Paul Attanasio, based upon the novel by Robert Ludlum
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
Joan Allen as Pamela Landy
Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons
Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer
Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch
David Strathairn as Noah Vosen
Paddy Considine as Simon Ross
Colin Stinton as Neal Daniels
115 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action).
"The Bourne Ultimatum" is the next to last of the many "three-quels" that this summer had to offer, and in the end it is the best of the bunch. After "Spider-Man" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," both which did not back the punch that I was hoping for out of both of those stories, Bourne does not disappoint-it exceeds expectations highly, and became possibly the best in the series. After the mediocre and headache inducing "The Bourne Supremacy," director Paul Greengrass did everything he did wrong in that film right in this one, and is clearly one of the most apt people to do action films. He continued to prove with this, as he started when he directed "United 93" last year, that he has the power to skew time. When I watched both this film and that one, I was struck with the fact that his movies make time go faster, and the one time I looked to see the time during "Bourne" it was an hour and thirty minutes later, and I assumed that it was only about forty-five.
Now this demands that you have seen the other two films to know what is going on, and even I-who saw both films a while back-had to think hard to remember some of the little details that they shot at you. The basics: Jason Bourne woke up on a boat one day not knowing who he was, but knowing that he had amazing fighting powers. And over time he's pieced together, with the help of his girlfriend Marie who was killed in the second film, that he was a spy, and now he's being hunted. . . yet again. This time the CIA group led by Noah Vosen thinks that he is the source to newspaper reporter Simon Ross's article that could screw them over. So they plan to take him down, even though former Bourne chaser Pamela Landy does not see Bourne as a threat. Meanwhile, Bourne is haunted by more flashbacks to events that happened in his past, and he tries to dig into those memories to figure out more about his past, all by being helped by another agent-Nicky Parsons-who was one of the people after him from the very beginning, and who has more to her that meets the eye.
Now "The Bourne Ultimatum" does answer many questions, wraps up a few story lines, but it also opens a few doors that it does not bother going back to answer. One is a potential love story between Bourne and the Nicky Parsons characters, played by Julia Stiles, whose relevance is grower as each film passes. It playfully hints at that, leading to a great shot that is a throwback to a shot in "The Bourne Identity," but it never fully answers that. Jason Bourne has all the answers that he could hope for in this installment, and hopefully a fourth film will continue the mystery. However, Bourne scribe Robert Ludlum is dead, and the original trilogy that he wrote cannot continue with his ideas, but there is a fourth and fifth Bourne book with a new author-having never read them I can't imagine what happens in them, but another trip with Jason Bourne in a few summers would be welcome.
Greengrass is great behind the camera, directing action scenes with not only skill, but a certain amount of realism. He also does scenes that could have been simple and safe with such a labyrinthine nature. Take a scene early in the second reel where Damon is giving directions to the newspaper reporter, who is being tailed. His phone is tapped, he is being watched. And in a segment that is at least fifteen minutes long but feels like a snap, Greengrass does this intense cat and mouse chase without any action at all. Just dialogue, logic, and acting. It's brilliant. This can easily be defined as an action film even though there is only two car chases and a fistfight in the whole two hour running time. Matt Damon does a great job as well, and the whose-who of side characters-Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Albert Finney, and Paddy Considine are all great. I was massively impressed with this third installment, especially after the miss of "The Bourne Supremacy." "The Bourne Ultimatum" is proof that August is not the dumping ground for the summer blockbusters but just good timing. This will not be crowded with other releases, and has time to breath and be discovered.