The Bourne Ultimatum
Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, Joan Allen. (2007, PG-13, 111 min.)
REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Aug. 3, 2007
Ask Francis Ford Coppola, and he’ll tell you it’s no small feat getting to the third movie in a series and still managing to create something watchable. More remarkable still – unprecedented, really – is making a movie that’s actually better than its predecessors. Conventional wisdom states that by the third movie in any series, lead characters have long since given up any psychological relevance and been reduced to two-dimensional lunch-box-sized pitchmen, and plots have become mere retreads of the series’ earlier triumphs. Which makes The Bourne Ultimatum – the third in the Robert Ludlum-penned series about Jason Bourne (Damon), the rogue CIA spook with impossibly broad shoulders and the memory of a goldfish – such an achievement. Not only is it considerably better than 2002's The Bourne Identity, but director Greengrass (United 93, Bloody Sunday) even bests his own excellent The Bourne Supremacy, creating a true action thriller that’s far closer to art than it probably has any right to be. If this upward trend continues, by the time the series reaches entry six or seven (The Bourne Resignation? The Bourne Liebestraum?), Greengrass will be making our generation’s Grand Illusion, or at least The Great Escape. Episode three finds Bourne still struggling to reconstruct his identity while bringing down elaborate conspiracies percolating among the higher-ups in the American intelligence community. By this point, he tops the CIA’s most-wanted list by a mile, and even just the sight of an Algerian meter maid is enough to send him into paroxysms of paranoia that usually result in his tossing about roomfuls of hiply dressed secret agents like they were sacks of potatoes. To add insult to this inconvenience, Bourne is plagued by memories of hooded interrogations involving involuntary headfirst dips into water tanks and cursed by a complete lack of memory of anything else: He doesn’t know his real name; he can’t remember why he is where he is or why he does what he does. And – unkindest cut of all! – he can’t remember that he used to schtup Julia Stiles. How cruel can fate (and movie producers) get?!! The least you can do is leave the poor guy his erotic memories while he’s out there in the cold, running for his life. Greengrass and co. may have made one of the best action movies in recent memory, but some punishments are just too mean-spirited to inflict, even for filmmakers.