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
Tom Gallop as Tom Cronin
Edgar Ramirez as Paz
Daniel Brühl as Martin Kreutz
Corey Johnson as Conrad Wills
Scott Adkins as Agent Kiley
Joey Ansah as Desh
Daniel Brühl as John St. Jacques
Dan Fredenburgh as Jimmy
Directed by Paul Greengrass
It’s not reinventing the wheel, but “Ultimatum” is the perfect finale to a true trilogy and the quality of the filmmaking makes it the strongest Bourne movie yet.
Still on the run from the CIA, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) learns that a reporter for the Guardian (Paddy Considine) has information about a deadly new black ops organization called “Black Briar,” an upgrade to the Threadstone program that turned Bourne into a ruthless killing machine. As Bourne tries to uncover the truth about his past, the director of that program (David Strathairn) sets out to kill anyone who comes into contact with their rogue agent.
“The Bourne Ultimatum” starts somewhere near the end of the last movie and then jumps forward six weeks as Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is starting to remember things from his past, particularly a troubling flashback of his conditioning by the secret Threadstone division of the CIA that turned him into a killing machine without a past.
With promises of finally answering the questions posed in the 2001 action-thriller “The Bourne Identity,” this third installment gets even further away from Robert Ludlum’s beloved spy novel, as director Paul Greengrass follows his groundbreaking “United 93” with a movie that moves the story forward without losing sight of what worked so well in the previous two. Anyone hoping or expecting the movie to break new ground will either be disappointed or thrilled, depending on whether they want something new or more of the same.
Quickly jumping from Moscow to New York City to Milan, Paris and beyond, the series capper barely stays in one place very long as a handful of new players are drawn into the Bourne debacle. After being leaked inside information about the CIA program that spawned Jason Bourne, Paddy Considine’s Simon Ross writes a story for the Guardian that makes him a target, as Bourne tracks him down to find out what he knows. Joan Allen’s Pam Landy returns as the “good” CIA operative who wants to bring Bourne in alive, but this time she meets resistance from David Strathairn’s Noah Yosen, who replaces Chris Cooper and Brian Cox as this installment’s power-hungry CIA director who want to eliminate Bourne before he comes after them. It seems just a mite too coincidental when Bourne runs into Julia Stiles’ Nikki once again, and she helps him try to find the source of the leak, but at least they don’t take the easy route by turning her into his latest lover interest. They don’t really have time for that because as soon as they arrive in Tangier looking for Ross’ source, Yosen has operatives of his upgraded black ops organization chasing them across the rooftops. This chapter is even more clever and fun than the previous two in the way that Bourne uses his brains and fighting skills to outwit Yosen’s agents and solve problems, though at a certain point, he’s such an unstoppable force that it rarely allows for any tension, because we know he’ll find a way out of it.
Paul Greengrass shows significant improvement with his second movie in the franchise, once again joined by the talented creative quartet that helped turn the previous two movies into such exciting, genre-defining action-thrillers. Cinematographer Oliver Wood’s camera rarely stands still for a second as it sweeps, swoops and creates gorgeous tracking shots of the global locales. His spectacular shots are chopped together in the same quick-fire style as “Supremacy” with John Powell providing his most driving score so far. Eventually things slow down to a more reasonable clip, but it rarely wastes time dawdling on exposition, though Tony Gilroy’s dialogue is far more impressive when delivered by such a strong array of dramatic actors including Strathairn, Allen, Scott Glenn and Albert Finney.
Those who’ve enjoyed the first two movies might get mildly irked by how “Ultimatum” rarely tries to tread new ground in terms of storytelling, especially with a number of blatant homages that mirror classic scenes from the first movie, but it also ups the ante in terms of action, outdoing the car chase climax from the last movie with ease. Those who’ve been following the story so far shouldn’t be too disappointed by the resolution that brings Bourne to New York City and answers many of the questions about Bourne’s past and the program that changed him.
The Bottom Line:
In a summer full of disappointing threequels, it’s nice to know that at least one franchise knows how to deliver the goods by replicating the thrills of the first two movies by sticking to a similar formula while answering the burning questions that have kept so many people interested for so many years.