Dir. Paul Greengrass, US, 2007, 115 mins
Cast: Matt Damon, Paddy Considine, Joan Allen, Julia Styles, David Strathairn
Review by Carol Allen
The Bourne movies have a considerable fan base, which means many members of the audiences for this latest one will know every detail of what's happened in the previous two. But even if you are not one of them and have never seen a Bourne movie before, all you need to know is that the title character (Damon) is a CIA trained assassin, whose training has stripped him of his identity and he is desperate to find out who he really is. The CIA however are out to eliminate him before he can get at the truth. Oh, and his girlfriend was murdered by them in the last movie. And now you're up to speed.
When the story opens something called the CIA Anti-Terrorist centre in New York is after him. They're also after Guardian journalist Simon Ross (Considine), who's taking a too close for comfort interest in their current operation “Blackbriar” and in the archive news stories about Bourne himself. This provides one of the first of the film's tense and edgily directed action sequences, as the CIA track the journalist through the streets of London and then Waterloo station, while Bourne gives him instructions via a mobile phone that he's slipped into Ross's pocket on how to avoid the CIA killers. The whole operation is masterminded from the NY HQ under the direction of Noah Vosen, a chillingly convincing portrayal of blinkered ruthlessness by Strathairn. He appears to have total access to feeds from London 's network of CCTV cameras - a situation which in view of our "special relationship" with America and the British government's paranoia about terrorism carries a worrying ring of truth about it.
Greengrass's signature technique of cutting swiftly from one or more situations or groups of characters to another, which he used so effectively in "United 93", is at times a bit confusing, but in this, his second outing with the Bourne franchise, he keeps the action going non stop. Other highlights include a chase through the streets and across the rooftops of Tangier, culminating in an appropriately brutal but still horrifying hand to hand fight between Bourne and the hit man, who's out to kill fellow agent Nicky (Styles); a spectacular car chase, which is more a series of car crashes; and a satisfying dénouement featuring the always reliable Albert Finney as the medic who holds the secret of Bourne's real identity.
Bourne himself is almost superhuman in his powers. In this age of high surveillance and long winded passport checks, he seems to be able to move from country to country with remarkable ease - other locations include Moscow , Paris and Madrid . But although he's called upon to be almost entirely an action man, Damon still shows him as human, interesting and a man with a sense of conscience. Styles has more to do in this than in the previous movie, and Allen has a chance to develop the character she established in "Supremacy" of CIA investigator Pamela Landy, who is sympathetic to Bourne's plight.
The ending is open to the possibility of a fourth film but it is to be hoped the temptation of "sequelitis" will be resisted. The Bourne Ultimatum winds up the saga to perfection. Anything more would be an anti-climax.