The third of the Bourne film series, based on the Robert Ludlam book series, offers 111 minutes of amazing action, drama, and espionage. A busy Matt Damon (Ocean’s 11, Good Will Hunting) reprises his physically demanding role of Jason Bourne, a valued government “asset” seeking his past while running from present antagonists who don’t want him exposing their operations. Bourne goes even back even further to his roots while showing how much he’s progressed personally. As the world scope widens on his search, filmmakers dispense with unnecessary training montages that show he’s still in shape and opt right into the action beginning in Moscow, Russia. Damon shows real emotion in the lead role well complemented by the stellar supporting cast.
Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger, Face/Off) reprises her role as Pamela Landy who uncovered more than she bargained for in her last Bourne experience. David Strathairn (Good Night Good Luck, A League of Their Own) plays Pamela’s colleague Noah Vosen who unwisely dismisses Pam’s key strategy points and experience with Bourne in favor of hard-nosed tactics. It would’ve been nice to see more screen time from Albert Finney and the always recognizable Scott Glenn (Backdraft, Silence of the Lambs) who plays top level government agent Ezra Kramer. Simon Ross (Hot Fuzz, Cinderella Man) and Venezuelan star Edgar Ramirez (Domino) also make solid impressions as a journalist and a rival assassin, respectively.
The solid plot, written by Bourne film veteran Tony Gilroy, Scott Burns (Ocean’s Twelve), and George Nolfi (producer of An Inconvenient Truth) is punctuated by several strong elements essential for a successful spy/espionage film. When a key government agency is tasked with finding the “toughest target ever tracked”, dangerous situations are inevitable. Added intrigue follows when he discovers more about himself throughout the well written plot while traveling through fantastic European settings such as Paris. Behavioral training programs, elaborate protocols and lots of secret cover-ups also raise the level of intrigue to a high level.
His past romance with Marie Kreutz, played by Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) still plays a large factor. She was the only recent person Bourne knew, but now he must make decisions on his own. His progressively complicated decision making creates more risk but incorporates a key element that progresses his character. Situations often prevent total partnerships, but Bourne slowly begins to care, which prompts him to take exposing action to help others. Yes, he wants to know his past, but his actions behind those motives are about as far from selfish as you can get.
Bourne never makes a decision without careful but quick strategic action. The filmmakers and technical crew organize, present and orient audiences to these actions extremely well. The action sequences, including TWO detailed chase sequences are simply unbelievable. Audiences will often be in awe of Bourne and the director Paul Greengrass. Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, United 93 and The Bourne Supremacy) creates some amazingly iconic shots and stunning camerawork deserving of an Oscar nomination. This British director uses several point of view shots including aerial to create high impact in the chase sequences without being too long.
Greengrass maps out each shot, so you can tell what’s going on with the action and the environments, especially with a memorable tracking shot that quickly pans up very high from the street. His only awkward, disorienting shot occurs when a key character suddenly appears in the second half of the plot. Greengrass even re-energizes flashback material from the two previous Bourne installments to create even more impact. John Powell (The Italian Job) creates a kinetic musical environment to complement the action with the perfect balance of sound that doesn’t drown out the jarring sound.
The Bourne Ultimatum represents the best of the “three-quels” this summer and has everything audiences crave at the theater. This action/thriller delivers the goods, especially for fans of the spy/action movie genre. The globetrotting settings, fast paced action and spy/government intrigue mix together for a potent plot. This quality film also has more appeal for female audiences than most action genre offerings currently in theaters. Doug Liman, director of first installment, The Bourne Identity, still serves as co-producer. Highly recommended and rated PG-13 for intense violence and action.
Previews and feature shows spoil some action surprises, so stay away if you don’t want to spoil your theatrical escape and a surprise character appearance (who surprisingly gets second billing) from the past.