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"THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM"
(2007) (Matt Damon, David Strathairn) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Thriller: A former covert operative tries to find the source of his troubled past and get revenge for the death of his girlfriend, all while dealing with government agents and assassins who want to kill him.
PLOT:
Following the death of his girlfriend and having previously been framed for the murder of two U.S. agents, former covert government operative Jason Bourne (MATT DAMON) is still troubled and frustrated by his nebulous past and the fact that the agency he once worked for now wants him dead. Having learned that British newspaper reporter Simon Ross (PADDY CONSIDINE) has met with an insider informant about Operation Black Briar -- a top-secret program that wouldn't look good if news of it was made public -- Jason wants to find him.

But he's not alone, for CIA director Ezra Kramer (SCOTT GLENN) wants all of that as well as Bourne quelled, meaning deputy director Noah Vosen (DAVID STRATHAIRN) must pull out all stops, including sending the likes of assassins Paz (EDGAR RAMIREZ) and Desh (JOEY ANSAH) to do the job. That doesn't sit well with deputy director Pamela Landy (JOAN ALLEN) who clashes with Vosen over that decision, which eventually also includes putting out a hit order on CIA employee Nicky Parsons (JULIA STILES) when she assist Jason.

Constantly on the run and always needing to be one step ahead of his superiors and their goons, Jason tries to uncover the final piece to the puzzle about who he really is, a quest that will increasingly put him in danger as he sets out to find the man responsible, Dr. Albert Hirsch (ALBERT FINNEY).

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
This may be more of a guy than girl thing, but I remember as a kid the sheer joy of the chase. I'm not talking about watching someone else pursuing another, but instead, actively being the pursuer or the one being pursued, strictly in the name of fun.

There was something primitively exhilarating about being on either end of the chase spectrum, and it's rare to encounter the same as an adult, unless one's a professional athlete in a sport that involves that sort of thing (cops and robbers don't count as they end up in a different category where the danger is real).

Accordingly, filmmakers often try to take up that adulthood slack by making films that contain similar chase scenes, or are nothing but one long chase picture, with occasional breaks in the action to allow the viewer a breather. "The Bourne Ultimatum" is one such movie, easily the best chase-based action flick so far this year.

As the name partially suggests, it's the third installment of the Jason Bourne series that started as a Robert Ludlum novel before making it to the big screen as 2002's "The Bourne Identity" followed by its 2004 sequel, "The Bourne Supremacy." Like that second film, this one is also helmed by director Paul Greengrass ("United 93," "Bloody Sunday"), features some terrific chunks of action filmmaking, and necessitates anti-motion sickness medication for those sensitive to lots of non-stop camera movement.

With most all of the exposition long out of the way -- save for some scenes featuring Albert Finney as a behavioral programmer, first seen in flashback and then in the flesh later in the film -- Greengrass and screenwriters Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi simply put the pedal to the metal for some high-octane action. While some of it requires a healthy injection of SOD (suspension of disbelief, particularly concerning the physics of what and how much a human body can endure), for the most part it works rather well.

Much like James Bond films of old, the action segues from one worldly locale to another, jumping from Moscow to Paris, Turin, London, and eventually to New York City. Using the real locales to his advantage (although avoiding tourist trap visuals usually seen in films), Greengrass puts returning star Matt Damon, those playing his adversaries, and presumably a fair number of stuntmen through their paces.

The fact that Damon obviously does a fair amount of said stunt work himself is a nice touch, and makes him and that character all the more engaging and entertaining to watch (the fact that he's after and defeating the corrupt government doesn't hurt in that regard either).

Joan Allen and Julia Stiles reprise their roles from the last time around, with the always-reliable David Strathairn ably playing an intense CIA official. Since Allen has the part sympathetic to Bourne's quest, Strathairn has to play his more cut and dry, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the dual qualities found in the likes of Tommy Lee Jones' character in "The Fugitive" (where the "villain" isn't necessarily that).

The other praises and complaints about the last film pretty much similarly ring true here. That includes the frontline adversaries -- played here by Edgar Ramirez and Joey Ansah -- more than physically fitting the bill, but coming up short in any sort of emotional or other interest department. Then there's the fact that Greengrass apparently has a thing (in all of his films of recent) against tripods or steadicams, thus resulting in yet another bouncy and jumpy experience.

Nevertheless, I think I enjoyed this one a bit more than the first sequel, but not as much as the original film. If you're looking for a slickly made chase flick with a compelling and engaging lead as well as top-notch action and stunt work, you'll be hard pressed to do much better than this offering, at least so far this summer. "The Bourne Ultimatum" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed July 26, 2007 / Posted August 3, 2007


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