Movie Review | The Bourne Ultimatum
Movie summary: Jason Bourne dodges a ruthless C.I.A. official and his Agents from a new assassination program while searching for the origins of his life as a trained killer. (IMDb)
I haven't seen either The Bourne Legacy nor Jason Bourne, with no intention of ever seeing them because why would I want to ruin what is the best finish possible to this series of stories about an amnesiac assassin in The Bourne Ultimatum? It still has some issues that couldn't quite be shaken off from the previous movies, but has more than enough excellence on display to balance things in its favour.
Let's get the negatives out of the way first, because there's really not that many and none of them are critical issues that derail the movie. First off, the combo of shaky-cam and constant quick-cutting in action scenes remain present, although reduced enough that I could at least follow everything happening on-screen, unlike in The Bourne Supremacy.
The second problem is only an issue at the very start of The Bourne Ultimatum, because of how contrived it feels to get the plot rolling. I should point out that the majority of this movie takes place before the final scene of the previous movie, with the action picking up as Bourne tries to evade the police while getting the hell out of Moscow after visiting the daughter of his first target.
Rather conveniently, while tending to his injuries, Bourne has a new set of flashbacks that sends him after those in the upper echelons of the CIA behind the Treadstone program that 'created' Jason Bourne in the first place. It does feel like a cheap and unimaginative way to start the story, but you quickly forget about as the pace picks up.
From that point, there's a trip to London, then the Mediterranean before everything finishes at a CIA facility in New York. Needless, there's a lot of action along the way, with what I consider to be the series' best brawl between Bourne and Desh (Joey Ansah) and a car chase resulting in one of the most enjoyably brutal crashes I've ever seen in a movie.
The action's as good as ever - if not the best so far - but what about the characters? Damon's as good as he's ever been in the role of Jason Bourne, with his best moments coming near the very end as he uncovers some revelations about his past that quite possibly shock him more than anything else he's experienced by that point. Damon does a lot with very little, completely selling the emotion behind Bourne's stoic facade.
Joan Allen and Tom Gallop return in their roles from The Bourne Supremacy, with Allen's Pamela Landy given a lot more screen time and showing greater depth than was possible in that movie. Landy proves to be not quite a friend to Bourne, but certainly not an enemy and it's both amusing and interesting to see how they deal with each other as they each pursue their own objectives.
Julia Stiles also returns as Nicky Parsons, joining Damon as the only other (I think) ever-present for the trilogy. Like Landy, Nicky is given more time to develop as a character and has her own reveal for Bourne that proves to be another revelation to which he's not quite sure how to react. She's not in the film for too long, but certainly makes an impression when needed and, along with Landy, shows that's not comfortable at all with what some sections of the CIA are doing.
As for the true antagonists this time, David Strathairn is great as Noah Vosen and Scott Glenn is appropriately evasive as his boss. They have a huge amount of manpower and all the technical advantages in the world, which only serves to make Jason Bourne feel like the underdog he should be in the face of overwhelming odds.
Bourne is pretty much a super-soldier in all but name, so it's a pretty decent balancing act to make him feel like he's just scraping through each moment by the skin of his teeth while never making the CIA's Blackbriar team (the replacement for Treadstone) feel incompetent or non-threatening. The entire movie is one big game of cat and mouse, and the mouse is not left in great shape by the end!
As for that ending, it was a pleasant surprise to be reminded again of how low-key and emotional it is, rather than an explosive, action-packed send-off for Bourne. Don't get me wrong, there's a loooot of action before reaching this point, but it's nice for the ending to the trilogy to be entirely about the character we've spent three movies with coming to terms with who he was before and who he is now.
Much like other movies in a series, The Bourne Ultimatum does almost require you having seen the previous movies to get the most out of this one, but how many people start watching a trilogy with the last instalment anyway? To be fair, even if you do watch this without having seen the others, you'll still be able to enjoy the action, assisted ably by a score that only serves to make every moment feel even more thrilling than it already is.
The Bourne Ultimatum keeps everything good from the first two movies, corrects almost all of the problems and adds a whole of new good stuff on top to make this the best in the trilogy. Damon is excellent as Bourne yet again, with Joan Allen providing more than able back-up and a whole pack of antagonists that keep the tension rising all the way to the surprisingly - yet somewhat fittingly - subdued climax.