THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Produced by Frank Marshall, Doug Liman, Patrick Crowley and Paul L. Sandberg
Screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi
Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM ends the same way that “The Bourne Identity” began: with a man floating in water. And like in that movie, the body of water is a symbolic womb in which the man is restored to life. Maybe I’m being a little bit too high falutin’ and film criticy for what is essentially a high energy action/adventure espionage movie but it’s a thought that occurred to me when at some point in the movie it’s casually thrown off that Jason Bourne wasn’t just a name picked at random. Think about it. Bourne=Born Again. Because in this movie we at last find out who Jason Bourne actually was before he became the world’s most wanted and deadliest man and what he gave up to get that distinction.
A London journalist named Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) has been publishing articles in a prominent newspaper. Stories about things he has no business knowing about. Such as Operation Treadstone, The Blackbriar Project and an internationally wanted assassin named Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) The CIA takes umbrage to this kind of press and starts following Ross to find out who his source is. So does Jason Bourne as he also wants to know who the source is. With Jason Bourne back on the scene it isn’t long before the CIA assigns Deputy Director Vosun (David Strathairn) to do what the Deputy Directors in the first two movies couldn’t do: take Jason Bourne out once and for all. This mandate comes straight from the top: the new CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) who is just about sick and tired of this whole Jason Bourne business and just wants it over with over the strong objections of Deputy Director Pamela Landry (Joan Allen)
During a dangerously complicated chase through Waterloo Station, Bourne is identified and Vosun assumes that Bourne must have been the reporter’s source and thereby pulls out all the stops, assigning an agent named Paz (Edgar Ramirez) to kill Bourne and bringing in Pamela Landry to assist in the job since she’s one of the only two people left alive who’s hunted Bourne before.
The other one is Bourne’s former Paris handler Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who once again encounters Bourne in Madrid where he’s followed a lead he got from Simon Ross to a man named Neal Daniels, a CIA section chief who was one of the top men involved with Treadstone. Nicky decides to help Jason and they both go to Tangier where Daniels is hiding from a really bloodthirsty assassin named Desh (Joey Ansah). Things go really bad in Tangier which forces Nicky to go into hiding and Bourne to go to New York where he has no choice but to get Pamela Landry to help him get information on the location of the secret Treadstone training facility in Manhattan. Because in that facility is a man named Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney) who has all the answers to all of Bourne’s questions. Now Bourne’s only problem is outwitting Vosun and his army of CIA agents. And even if Bourne can do that there’s still Paz to deal with. A killer who’s younger, faster, stronger than Bourne and is aching for a chance to prove he’s the better killer.
By now you’ve either seen the first two films in this series or you haven’t. If you have then I don’t have to give you the hard sell. You know how good the first two were and you expect more of the same from this one and it doesn’t disappoint. I will say this: unlike most movie trilogies where the final installments ends on an upbeat note, don’t expect that here. In fact, “The Bourne Identity” is the most cheerful and upbeat of the three. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM is the darkest and most downbeat of the three movies. Even though Jason Bourne learns who he is and what Treadstone is, the knowledge brings him no closure and no joy.
Let’s get the things I didn’t like out of the way first: as in “The Bourne Supremacy” director Paul Greengrass insists on using the hand-held camera technique for his fight scenes and it’s a damn shame because the fight between Bourne and Desh is a doozy. I only wish I could have seen more of it. I liked how Julia Stiles had more to do in this movie than she did in the first two but there’s a really odd scene that played to me as if Nicky Parsons was hinting that she and Jason Bourne (or the man he was before he became Bourne) had some kind of romantic relationship. This didn’t track with me at all considering the way the two of them acted towards each other in the first two movies. In fact, I couldn’t buy Nicky’s sudden defection from the CIA to help Bourne. There’s a scene where Bourne is fleeing across rooftops from the Tangier police while trying to follow Desh and get to him before he gets to Nicky that goes on way too long for my taste. And didn’t we have Jason Bourne engaged in a brutal car chase with the assassin assigned to kill him in “The Bourne Supremacy”? Did we have to have another one in this movie? Three screenwriters and they couldn’t think of another way for Bourne and Paz to get it on?
What did I like? Jason Bourne really gets a workout in this one fighting off the two assassins, Desh and Paz. Either the CIA wised up and started hiring a better grade of assassin or else Bourne is just getting older. Either way, he doesn’t take them out as easily as he did the assassins in the last movie. Although none of the killers in this movie have the same aura of menace that Clive Owen had in the first movie, they’re satisfactory opponents. I love the European locales in all three of the movies. I dunno, somehow spy/espionage movies carry more weight with me when they’re not confined to the United States. And this one goes all over the place: London, Madrid, Tangier, New York and I’m sure I’m leaving out two or three other exotic locales.
So should you see THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM? Hell, you’ve come this far, so why not? Despite my nitpicks I enjoyed this one thoroughly and wholeheartedly. I think a lot of it had to with that I had seen the first two right before I went to see this one so I didn’t feel like I had seen three separate movies. I felt like I had watched one six-hour film so I was carried along with the action and story and didn’t have time to let the excitement drain away by a two year break between films. The acting is just as good as in the first two and the revelations about the true identity of Jason Bourne won’t make you feel like you’ve been jerked around. I’m not giving anything away by telling you that things are left open for another Jason Bourne movie (and if the money this one is pulling in is any indication, I’d bet my Ian Fleming collection there will be) but even if they don’t, things are tied up well enough that the series can end on a satisfactory note. It’s a terrific trilogy of films. Very well made and very well acted with outstanding stunts and edge of your seat plotting. By all means, enjoy.