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The Bourne Ultimatum

Get ready to be Bourne again. Probably the best threequel of the summer, The Bourne Ultimatum keeps to the same seamlessly smart, hair-raising action of the first two installments.


As a thinking man's actioner, Ultimatum continues the franchise's firm grasp on how spy games are actually played. The film starts at the point where Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is in Moscow, having killed the assassin from Bourne Supremacy in a car crash. He has exacted his revenge for his girlfriend's death, but he is still haunted and needs to know how the hell he got into this predicament in the first place. Plus, he's got a new CIA schmuck, Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), after him. Vosen has reopened the Treadstone project--now called Blackbriar--and is using a new cache of highly trained assassins to do his dirty work. Luckily for Bourne, he's got two women on his side: CIA lackey Pam Landy (Joan Allen), who, while in the situation room, tries to thwart Vosen at every turn; and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), the young logistician who covers for Bourne whenever she runs into him. With their help, our intrepid assassin circumvents the globe in typical Bourne fashion, so he can hunt down his past in order to find a future.


Damon has truly perfected his Bourne alter ego in this third go-around. With his cool demeanor, he really makes it all look so effortless--jet-setting around the world, fighting enemies off with pens, books, towels, cars, whatever he can get his hands on, and covertly obtaining the information he needs. Damon is an accomplished actor, no doubt able to take on a variety of roles--but he may never quite top Bourne. Damon is also surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast. In both Supremacy and Ultimatum, Allen as Landy stands out in the crowd of power-hungry men she works for and with, infusing the proceedings with a steely intelligence--and ultimately, compassion. Stiles, too, is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise testosterone-filled environment, and her Nicky may actually have more of connection to Bourne than we previously thought. The stellar Strathairn, a character actor who can play both hero and villain with relative ease, adds the sneaky Vosen to his list of bad guys, while Albert Finney makes a brief but memorable appearance as a link to Bourne's past.


Helming his second Bourne installment after getting our hearts pounding with Supremacy, Paul Greengrass (United 93) gets it. Although the Bournes sprouted from the furtive mind of spy-thriller author Robert Ludlum, the director seems keyed into the whole spy genre as well, handing us what feels to be a genuine look at how covert operations might work. From the operations center, in which CIA personnel can find ways to tap into a target's life via any number of ways, to the action on the streets, Greengrass keeps it moving at a whiplash pace. We've now come to expect the seat-clenching car chases, along with at least one hand-to-hand combat scene between Bourne and some other super assassin in which Bourne kills his attacker with sheer brute force, aided by some everyday item. Still, they never seem redundant, flowing nicely into the storyline. Greengrass' filmmaking style, however, can be a tad jolting at times. He loves putting the audience in the middle of the action, swinging the camera around, fast-cutting between shots, keeping things slightly confusing on who's doing what to whom. But that real-time look and feel is what makes the Bourne movies unique from other actioners. Could there be room for a fourth Bourne? One can only hope.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 1/2 stars.