REVIEW: The Bourne Ultimatum [2007]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 115 minutes | Release Date: August 3rd, 2007 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Paul Greengrass
Writer(s): Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi / Tony Gilroy (story) / Robert Ludlum (novel)

“He just drove off the roof”

I have never been one to shy away from saying that most action films do nothing for me. Most times they’re blatant vehicles to blow stuff up, show off sexy models, and throw any semblance of reality or intelligence out the window. With that said, however, the Bourne series has been fantastic. Doug Liman ushered in a new take on action by using a more cinema verite style, showing the fights in full force while making our super spy someone we can relate to emotionally. This is not the sci-fi absurdity that Bond was (before their overhaul towards the style of this series no less).

There was a lot to worry about when The Bourne Supremacy came out. With director Paul Greengrass taking over, what could have been a second-hand copy of the original ended up being an improvement in style and flair. The stakes were raised and the story was enhanced because of it. Greengrass needs to be given a ton of credit for being able to keep up appearances with this latest installment, The Bourne Ultimatum. In what is an amazing conclusion to a top-notch trilogy, the action is brought to a new level and story and performance are never compromised.

Once again, Bourne is brought into the minds of the CIA by false pretenses. Someone has leaked information about the Treadstone upgrade called Blackbriar and once Bourne is located trying to converse with the news-writer who broke the story, he’s assumed to be the mole. Only Pamela Landy—she who was on the case to find him in Supremacy—knows that he can’t be the one. Bourne’s motive has always been to stay clear of the government and live his life in peace. It has been the CIA who keeps bringing him back into the open to wreak havoc on them. What ends up transpiring is that Bourne becomes interested in knowing the source as well to finally find the truth of who he is and what made him into a killer. The film then becomes a chase against time and each other to find this mysterious catalyst and see if the government can close the breach and tie off all loose ends or if Bourne will get his revenge on those who took his life from him.

In what’s probably the simplest storyline of the series with only one chase lasting the entirety of the story, Ultimatum has possibly the biggest cast of characters and shifting of loyalties to expose the corruption that has been behind the full story progression. This is not a detriment at all, however, as it allows for more fights and car chases that work in full context with the plot. Admission to this film is worth it for the apartment fight between Bourne and the CIA’s second asset alone. The pursuit while jumping through windows in Madrid is cool on its own, but it gets better when they finally meet up in a ten-minute or so fight that’s as invigorating to watch as any other scene. Also, rather than using a massive car chase as a climatic set piece like in the first two films, we instead get around three small scale road races that are just as intense while staggered enough to never bog the action down into monotony.

After five years of waiting, we also discover the origin of our favorite operative with heart and feeling. By the end of the film we will learn what the cause of all the espionage and destruction that has taken place around him is. No one could have done it better than Matt Damon. He has the physique and attitude to be believable in the action sequences, but also the range to pull off the moments of intelligence and cat and mouse correspondence with the opposition. Joan Allen reprises her role with the same amount of dedication to her job, but also a bit more disenchantment for what’s going on around her after Brian Cox’s character (from the first two films) took matters into his own hands. Needing a role in that mold, we are given a nice turn from David Strathairn. Like Cox, he’s working at the top of the food chain and answers to no one when making decisions. He’s trying to cover up any connections to bosses of the Blackbriar program while also attempting to serve his country so you never can quite gauge what he’s be capable of doing.

Even the little guys do a wonderful job whether Paddy Considine as the reporter who starts the leak at the center of everything, Albert Finney as a man from Bourne’s past and possibly key to his origin, and Édgar Ramirez as one of the CIA’s operatives sent to take Bourne out. Ramirez is a nice addition to a role that has been successfully played by Clive Owen in Identity and Karl Urban and Marton Csokas in Supremacy. He doesn’t talk much if at all, but he has the look and robotic efficiency down pat to hopefully earn more roles better-suited to show what he can do post Domino.

In the end one must applaud Paul Greengrass for continuing to exceed expectations and bring this series to a conclusion that builds on the success of its predecessors rather than destroy them. His skill at the close-up handheld look is astonishing with the same kinetic energy as Tony Scott sans seizure-inducing cuts. Rather than feel like over-production his use of handheld enhances the environment and puts you directly into the action. Let’s also credit cinematographer Oliver Wood who shot all three Bourne films. He was able to work with both directors and pair his style into a nice harmony with them.

You don’t get a more intelligently told or shot action trilogy than the Bourne series. Our final answer may be the simple way out, but it works in the context of the whole. I would have liked the ending to go bolder and I thought it would until the final frame. Hopefully Hollywood will know to end the series here on a high note because I don’t see all the principals returning again. Without them we’ll just get drivel that risks ruining the legacy of what came before.

[1] Matt Damon star as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum.
[2] David Strathairn as Noah Vosen and Joan Allen as Pamela Landy in The Bourne Ultimatum.
[3] Édgar Ramírez in The Bourne Ultimatum.

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