Published on August 10th, 2007 | by Mike Barnard0
The Bourne Ultimatum
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Albert Finney
Even James Bond should be quaking in his boots when Jason Bourne is on the loose. Although Casino Royale attempted to re-imagine the 007 franchise as an edgy, more realistic spy series following the success of first two Bourne outings, Matt Damon is back as the fugitive on the run in an even grittier entry to effortlessly show Bond how to do thrills best. With Paul Greengrass directing using his documentary-style shaky camera, no scene is brushed with the glamour or casual swagger still reserved for Britain’s favourite super spy. This serious tone, coupled with another confidently stone-faced performance from Damon, makes The Bourne Ultimatum raw action at its finest.
Following straight on from The Bourne Supremacy, we catch up with Bourne being pursued by Russian police in Moscow. Evading them and heading to England, he is still searching for his true identity that was erased from mind and public files when he signed up for a secret programme with the CIA. In London he meets journalist Simon Ross (Considine) who has been writing stories connected with his past and who may be able to lead him to a high level source of information. But with a black ops division headed by CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen (Strathairn) monitoring Ross, it isn’t long before they are back on the trail of Bourne as he gets ever closer to exposing the agency’s dubious past.
Essentially the Bourne films are elongated chase sequences, stretched way past the point the majority of moviemakers would dare go. Despite this, The Bourne Ultimatum never lets up as Damon’s rough and ready rouge stealthily evades capture in thrillingly complex set pieces. An early highlight features London’s Waterloo station. Surrounded by agents watching Simon Ross’s every move, Bourne directs Ross around the busiest terminal in the capital to avoid the gaze of eyes and security cameras alike, then despatches four men in close combat and eludes a hitman’s shots. And that’s just for starters. Later, Bourne stunt-bikes his way around Tangiers before leaping between the rooftops on foot, breaks into and escapes from a Madrid government office and steals a police car in a demolition derby chase sequence. While catching his breath he also recruits CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Stiles) for a helping hand, much to the annoyance of Vosen who sweats away while surrounded by a crack team of trackers monitoring every conceivable form of surveillance. The question of why all this technology and all these people can’t get the better of just one man is a minor niggle when it produces an unrelenting rollercoaster ride of action and suspense.
James Bond is easily outpaced by Jason Bourne on the realism stakes, thanks largely to Damon instilling believability into the role, but Ultimatum also represents the best of the so-called blockbuster “threequels” this summer. While the majority of others have been too long, wide of the mark or tired renditions of their originals, Ultimatum pushes its tried and tested formula further to be even more satisfying than the first two films. The pursuits, double bluffs and even the internal CIA politics all mesh perfectly to make for a fitting conclusion to a trilogy. Hats off to Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass for not resting on their laurels and proving summer blockbusters can be entertaining third time round. If there’s more Bourne to come, the standards have been set higher than ever.