The Bourne Ultimatum
December 18, 2007
Jason Bourne (Damon) is back for a third (and possibly final) installment of the popular series of films based loosely on the Robert Ludlum novels. If The Bourne Identity (2002) was about our hero escaping from his CIA handlers and The Bourne Supremacy (2004) was about him figuring out why they are still after him, then The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) is all about getting revenge on those responsible for messing up his life in the first place and figuring out, once and for all, his identity.
Simon Ross (Considine) is an investigative reporter working for The Guardian, a British newspaper, and who is doing a story about Bourne and a top secret mission called Operation: BlackBriar. Naturally, the CIA finds out and puts Ross under surveillance in the hopes that Bourne will contact him, which he does, at a busy London train station. In an intense, insanely choreographed sequence, Bourne evades all of the CIA’s surveillance and meets Ross, but before he can get him to reveal his source, Paz an extremely efficient assassin (Ramirez) kills the journalist and disappears like a ghost.
Fortunately, Bourne takes Ross’ notes and figures out that the source is located in Madrid. During the course of his investigation, Bourne is reunited with Nicky Parsons (Stiles), a CIA operative sympathetic to his plight. Within the organization, the man in charge of Blackbriar, CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen (Strathairn) wants Bourne dead because he sees him as a dangerous liability while another agent, Pamela Landy (Allen) wants to take him alive because she doesn’t agree with Vosen’s methods. This results in some wonderfully testy bickering between the two actors as they argue over what to do about Bourne. The rest of Ultimatum plays out as a brilliantly staged cat and mouse game with Bourne turning the tables on his handlers.
Paul Greengrass, who directed Supremacy, is back behind the camera bringing his trademark, no-nonsense pacing and visceral, hand-held camerawork to Ultimatum. The film’s action sequences are the epitome of edgy intensity as the fight scenes are quick and as brutal as a PG-13 rating will allow. They are realistically depicted – after all, guys as well-trained as Bourne don’t waste any time and know exactly how to bring someone down as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Like with the other Bourne films, Ultimatum also has exciting chases, including the police pursuing Bourne over rooftops in Tangiers while he’s chasing an assassin going after Nicky, and a crazy car chase through the busy streets of New York City.
What elevates Ultimatum (and the rest of the series) above, say, the Mission: Impossible films is that it is more than just an exciting thriller (although, it does work on that level). It is also a scathing critique of the CIA’s dirty little secrets. The series ultimately asks, what happens when a highly-trained and conditioned government operative questions what he does and why? How does he undo the programming that made him what he is and come to grips with what he’s done? This film answers these questions to a satisfying degree while also being very entertaining conclusion to the series.
There are 12 minutes of deleted scenes including one in which we see the fallout from the film’s conclusion for the characters working within the CIA. There is more footage of Paz, the assassin that Bourne repeatedly crosses paths with. Also, more with Ross and we also see how Bourne found out about him.
“Man on the Move: Jason Bourne” takes us through several of the countries that Bourne visits during the course of the film. We see how Berlin doubled for Moscow and get an idea of the work required to take a film crew all over Europe. Their goal was to immerse an audience in a city without resorting to showing the usual touristy landmarks.
“Rooftop Pursuit” examines the exciting chase in Tangiers. We see the special cameras that were used to capture the action.
“Planning the Punches” takes a look at how the fight in a small, Tangiers apartment was put together. A lot of planning and practicing was involved. It is fascinating to see how much was done to pull it all off.
“Driving School” examines how Damon was trained to do some of the film’s car stunts. He went through a series of moves under the guidance of an expert and we see him actually pull them off, albeit under safe conditions.
“New York Chase” takes a look at how the New York City car chase was choreographed. Amazingly, they actually did it all on location with no CGI. This certainly makes you appreciate the final result all the more.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by director Paul Greengrass. He says that he wanted to set a high tempo right from the first frame because that is what these films are all about. Because Supremacy ended in New York, he wanted Ultimatum to show what happened between Moscow and NYC. Greengrass also wanted to put Bourne in situations that could be ripped from today’s headlines. The director talks about the challenge of making a film that would appeal to fans of the series and also to those who hadn’t seen any of them. Greengrass talks about pacing and moving the film along without losing the audience in the process. He delivers a solid, thoughtful track.