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The Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne dodges new, superior assassins as he searches for his unknown past while a government agent tries to track him down.


First and foremost, speaking as no fan of the genre, "The Bourne Ultimatum" is a breathtaking, virtuoso, superb action movie.

Secondly, it is a silly malarky of cartoonish super-hero stuff.

Thirdly, the film carries a complex, important point, about crime-fighters turning into criminals themselves. No reference is made to Abu Ghraib or the Executive Branch's outrageous domestic assaults on constitutional rights, none is necessary.

So, the latest in the "Bourne" series, in the hands of Paul Greengrass (of the 2004 "Bourne Supremacy" and last year's "United 93"), is a significant achievement, perhaps held back but not actually diminished by the unavoidable excesses of the genre.

"Breathtaking" above is meant both as a complimentary adjective and a description of the physical sensation: for more than an hour from the first frame, the viewer seemingly holds his breath, pushed back against the chair by the force of relentless, globe-trotting, utterly suspenseful action. There is no letup, no variation in the rhythm and pull of the film, and yet it never becomes monotonous and tiresome the way some kindred music videos do after just a couple of minutes.

Oliver Wood's in-your-face cinematography is making the best of Tony Gilroy's screenplay from Robert Ludlum's 1990 novel (which doesn't stack up well against the "Bourne Identity," written a decade earlier).

Matt Damon is once again the inevitable, irreplaceable Bourne, the deadliest of fantasy CIA agents, this time taking on the entire agency in search of his identity, his past, and the mysterious agency program that has turned him into a killing machine. Nothing like his quietly heroic Edward R. Murrow, the always-marvelous David Strathairn is the nasty top agency official, pitched against Bourne in trying to hide some illegal "take-no-prisoners" policies and brutal procedures.

Joan Allen plays what appears to be the Good Cop against Strathairn's Bad One. And, there is Julia Stiles as the agent once again coming to Bourne's aid; a combination of Greengrass' direction and Stiles acting results in a surprising impact by a mostly silent character, her lack of communication and blank expression more intriguing than miles of dialogue.

So good is "The Bourne Ultimatum" that it gets away with the old one-man-against-the-world bit, this time stretched to ridiculous excesses, as Bourne defies constraints of geography, time, gravity... and physics in general. (Can you fly backwards with a car from the top of a building? Why not - it looks great.)

All this "real-world" magic - leaping from country to country in seconds, to arrive at some unknown location exactly as, when, and how needed - outdoes special-effect and superhero cartoon improbabilities. And yet, only a clueless pedant would allow "facts" interfere with the entertainment-based ecstasy of the Bourne fantasy.


Albert Finney, Albert Jones, Alex Argenti, Branko Tomovic, Brian Cox, Charles Venn, Chris Mansfield, Chris Wilson, Colin Stinton, Corey Johnson, Dan Fredenburgh, Daniel Brühl, David Boston, David Strathairn, Franka Potente, James Schram, Joan Allen, John Snowden, John Warman, Julia Stiles, Kirk Lambert, Laura Bayonas, Mark Bazeley, Martin Ballantyn


Action, Thriller, Adventure, Mystery

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