|The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Stiles, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, Paddy Considine, Edgar
Ramirez, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney
Director: Paul Greengrass
As spy thrillers go, “The Bourne Ultimatum” is shockingly plot-free. The majority of the movie is Run, Jason, Run! as he plays cat-and-mouse with the CIA in an attempt to uncover The Awful Truth about his identity and history. But just try and keep your eyes off of it, even when Paul Greengrass’ trademark nausea-cam trickery gives you vertigo. I am not kidding when I say that one of the attendees of the screening for this movie confessed to popping a couple Dramamines before the lights went down.
Superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is thisclose to finding out to who he really is – well, he already knows who he really is, because CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) told him his real name at the end of “The Bourne Supremacy” – but the rest of the CIA, under the direction of Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), is hell bent on silencing Bourne and everyone he talks to, even if it means killing their own people, like Bourne’s former contact Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Run, Jason, run!
The Ludlum fans will surely cry foul that the filmmakers stripped the stories to bare bones – and to be fair, they did – but it makes for an entertaining movie nonetheless. Greengrass’ vomit-inducing camera work aside, he has a gift for framing action sequences in a holy-shit-they-did-not-just-do-that kind of way, and the final car chase (come on, you knew there would be one) has moments so visceral that the points of impact will bruise your skin, which is a nice contrast from, say, the painfully obvious CGI car sequence of “Live Free or Die Hard.”
By the time Bourne’s story is resolved – with a nice visual callback to “The Bourne Identity,” no less – it lands, sadly, with an anticlimactic thud. For all the things that have been done to him by the government, Jason deserved a better ending, but that thought won’t likely hit you until the credits roll. Greengrass, you see, is a master of misdirection, so even during the quiet moments, you’ll be thinking not about the lack of a story but instead about how they pulled that trick with the police car, or how hard it was to frame the Moroccan window jump.
Damon, God love him, sells the tragedy of Bourne with everything he has; Strathairn and Allen, however, have no such flexibility with their characters, which is a shame to give such fine actors so little room to breathe. Stiles is a fine actress as well, but she spends most of her time staring at Damon hazily, as if she has a concussion. But let’s be honest: in the Greengrass-directed “Bourne” movies, Damon is the lead, and Greengrass is second billing. Actors? Pffft. Who needs actors?
Damon has repeatedly stated that this will be his last “Bourne” movie, and as good a job as he’s done, and as enjoyable as the movies have been (warts and all), it’s the right call. “The Bourne Ultimatum” was the last Bourne book Ludlum wrote before he died, so it seems fitting for Damon to end his involvement here as well, lest the series begin churning out installments “Ernest”-style, like “The Bourne Jury Duty Notice” and “The Bourne Moving Violation.” Damon’s now a franchise-free man, dignity intact, and you can’t help but think that Daniel Craig hates his guts for it.
It’s not often that the bonus material on a DVD actually serves as a worthy complement to the movie itself, but the single-disc release of “The Bourne Ultimatum” delivers exactly the kind of behind-the-scenes footage that fans deserve. Aside from the expected inclusion of a director commentary and deleted scenes, the DVD is highlighted by a 23-minute making-of featurette (“Man on the Move”) and four stunt featurettes that cover the rooftop chase sequence (“Rooftop Pursuit”), the apartment fight sequence (“Planning the Punches”), the New York car chase sequence (“New York Chase”) and a short look at Matt Damon’s training behind the wheel. It’s all quite interesting, and even a little humorous at times – especially when a completely new job title (JumpCam Operator) is created virtually on the spot.