The Bourne Ultimatum

The third title in a series is like middle age for movies. By now audiences know what to expect. The Bourne Ultimatum hides its small wrinkles with clever scripting and film style. Fast camera work and quick editing makes the action seem dangerously real. Ultimatum feels like a fine ending to the Jason Bourne movies. But Hollywood habitually squeezes its stars for more sequels. Likely, mysterious studio suits have already approached Matt Damon’s agent. Nevertheless, Ultimatum wraps up one chapter of Jason Bourne’s career.

Bourne (Matt Damon) finally closes in on how and where he became the world’s most deadly assassin. Bourne sets up a meeting with an investigative reporter printing articles about him and a Project: Black Briar. A high level source in the CIA provides material for the stories This leaked information is too damning for Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). He is determined to silence the source. Joining Vosen is Agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) who wants to convince Bourne to turn himself in. Neither dying nor surrendering is in Bourne’s plan to nab the source first.

The Bourne Ultimatum is the suspense film Alfred Hitchcock would have made if he had way too much caffeine in his system. Every scene emits visual intensity. Director Paul Greengrass’s shaky camera finds danger in confined spaces like London’s Waterloo Station or Tangiers alleyways. He picks great shots like a sniper perched behind a billboard. The sign flips between two ads revealing the gunman for only a split second. The Tangiers sequence recalls classic Hitchcock movies Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Black Briar assassin Desh (Joey Ansah) chases Nicky (Julia Stiles) through multiple apartment buildings. The editing and tight framing makes it hard to tell how close he is to catching her. All the while, Bourne tries to reach them while being chased by the police.

One wishes there was more to these movies than people chasing Bourne. Ultimatum could be renamed “Chasing Bourne” or “Run Jason Run”. But it still retains the excitement of the last entry with variations on previous action sequences. Having the same writer (Tony Gilroy) for all three movies ties them together like one large story. Ultimatum’s plot in fact begins 10 minutes before the end of Supremacy. It also refers to dialogue and names from the first movie.

I appreciate the attempt at changing Bourne’s character at the ending of Ultimatum as opposed to the “mission accomplished” feel of typical action films. Rather than kill unthinkingly, he now only does so when needed. Thankfully, everything isn’t revealed about him. Nicky has a deep connection to Bourne that is left open-ended for us to imagine. He should stay mysterious.

Special features junkies will be slightly disappointed at how little is here. Most of it is watch it once and forget it. The commentary track with director Paul Greengrass is okay and informative. But the disc’s deleted scenes don’t give any replay value in the form of extra stunts and tense moments. That’s the weakest point. The action scene featurettes titled “Man on the Move,” “Rooftop Pursuit,” “Planning the Punches,” “Driving School”. They are extremely short and could’ve been edited into one documentary.

The DVD doesn’t have any big mistakes in picture or sound quality. It has a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen print. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is especially good. Composer John Powell’s themes are iconic to the Bourne trilogy. The strong bass makes his string heavy score sound powerful.

This version is worth buying for the awesome movie. Unless this is The Lord of the Rings, small special features isn’t a problem for a sequel. But decent outtakes, some laughs and gaffs are never bad things to have either.

Grade: B+

The Upside: The movie treats us with more imaginative action sequences that crash real cars and not computer generated ones. The hero wants to change himself rather than save the day.

The Downside: It doesn’t add variety to this spy saga. The DVD deleted scenes don’t extend the viewers excitement.

On the Side: The trilogy exists in a bubble where the U.S has the world’s only intelligence agency. There are plenty of stories of foreign agents and mercenaries left for Bourne and James Bond to tackle.

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