Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen,
Rated: PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action.
Parental Notes: This is about the same as the two previous films in terms of violence — car chases and crashes, hand-to-hand combat, and some use of guns. The violence is fairly bloodless, but the sequences are long and intense. There’s very little in the way of sensuality except for a flashback to a scene from the first film.
Jason Bourne, the assassin without a past, is back in the third installment of films loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s books of the same titles. “The Bourne Ultimatum” is a roller coaster ride of a film from start to finish. I did yawn once — but it was because I had been holding my breath. There’s suspense a-plenty and the pacing is designed to give you just enough moments to relax for the tense moments to really pop.
“The Bourne Ultimatum” is the conclusion to the Bourne saga, which started when our hero, ably played by Matt Damon, was pulled from the ocean with two bullets in his back, a micro-projector in his hip, and no memory of who he was — but plenty of awesome spy skills. He set out to find out the truth about his past, and in “The Bourne Ultimatum” he finally figures it all out — but that’s not the important thing. This is a movie about chases, about outwitting your enemies, about trying the impossible and succeeding because, well, you’re Jason Bourne, and Bourne can do anything.
The acting is surprisingly good, given that there is so little actual need for good acting. Damon must run and shoot and be intense. As the CIA higher-ups trying to find him, Joan Allen and David Strathairn must be likewise intense, and good hearted and evil respectively. As Nicky Parsons, the CIA operative we’ve met in the earlier films, Julia Stiles must be sympathetic. That’s about it, really. And yet, each of the actors is so talented that they can’t help acting well, even in the face of a quasi-artistically wobbly camera and extended stunt sequences. It only makes the film more fun, because we’re not distracted by terrible performances and so can really enjoy the action.
As with the other two films, the action careens breathlessly through exotic international locations. There’s a foot chase over and through a marketplace and several apartment buildings in Morocco, a game of cat-and-mouse in a train station in England, and an exhilirating car chase here in the U.S., to mention only a few. Indeed, in retrospect, much of “The Bourne Ultimatum” seems to consist of chases of one sort or another.
Far be it from this reviewer to complain, however. When one goes to a Bourne movie, it’s not to relax and unwind, it’s to see eye-poppingly awesome chases and stunts, with a nice smattering of espionage and intrigue. The one serious flaw the film has is director Paul Greengrass’ habit of using hand-held cameras for most of the shots. It’s hard to appreciate the artistry of a fight when the camera is too shaky to watch properly. It’s even harder to appreciate the work that goes into the various foot and car chases. Sure, the hand-held camera gives one the feeling of being there in the moment in those exciting sequences, but it is still annoying to those of us who like watching things unfold. It’s even more annoying when it’s used in quiet face-to-face conversations, where things usually aren’t shaking unless we’ve had a few too many cups of coffee.
Aside from that, however, “The Bourne Ultimatum” is a fun ride. If you’re looking for more Bourne and want to find out the truth about the mysterious agent, this is a must-see. Folks who have missed the earlier installments will probably be all right, as there are just enough flashbacks and exposition to help explain what’s going on.