Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Joan Rivers, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez, Albert Finney, Scott Glenn
Plot: Bourne (Damon) goes on the hunt for a reporter who might be onto uncovering the origins of Treadstone. But the CIA want the reporter dead and the truth buried.
The Bourne Ultimatum is the best Bourne film. The third film in any franchise is the risky one and everyone waits with expectant resign that something is going to go wrong. The producers make the stunts ‘too big’, they force back beloved character… maybe they simply run out of story to make the character work anymore. Supremacy left Bourne realising his real name was David Webb, suggesting a fitting end to the character. However, part of the genius of the script here is that, despite these potential pitfalls, Greengrass makes us question how we ever considered leaving the character at this point in time. Treadstone might be over, but the men responsible for Bourne are still out there? What about the briefly mentioned Blackbriar from Identity? As Ultimatum throws us right back into the chase, the story feels inevitable. Thrilling. Necessary.
Ultimatum just feels like Bourne without the fat. Greengrass has learned exactly what we want, after examining Identity and trying out his own tricks with Supremacy. If you throw in The Green Zone, where Greengrass and Damon further explored their chemistry, the talent behind this third film couldn’t be more ideal for this stunning finale. Identity got weighed down by the origin story, as Bourne and Marie spent long periods of the film, questioning the plot and evolving as characters. Supremacy was faster, but with more plot that we would have cared for, to fight through. Ultimatum starts right from the off. Bourne is still fleeing from the last gunfight he got into and before he even has a chance to catch his breath, he finds a newspaper article, suggesting that a reporter might have stumbled across the next piece in the puzzle. Without a girlfriend to go home to, Bourne packs his bags and decides to carry on down the rabbit hole, hoping to find the mastermind at the end of the tunnel. To inspire a finale, Bourne catches flashbacks of his initiation, a grumbling American accent from a new villain in the background. And that’s pretty much it for the plot. Sub-plots come in aplenty with Pamela Landy back in the game, butting heads with David Strathairn’s shoot-first CIA Deputy Director. Nikki Parsons is also around, with a ‘mentioned-once, but-quickly-brushed-over’ secret past with Bourne. However, that is merely the dressing on the steak. And what a steak! With the simple plot of Bourne chasing clues until he finds the puppet-master at the end of the trail of crumbs, Greengrass feels more liberated. His mission is to deliver the set-pieces that tie this story together and remind us why Bourne is the spy who blends the cool of James Bond to the grittiest of political dramas.
And the set-pieces are sublime. They each bring a new kind of tension to the table. A tense game of cat and mouse takes place in Waterloo station, as the CIA hunt down this rogue reporter. What the CIA don’t know is that Bourne is helping the reporter? Bourne flexes his smarts to a staggering degree of precision, a master of hiding in plain sight and effortlessly dispatching his foes. That segment ends with an early twist and shocks and flexes the stunning visuals. You will never look at Waterloo’s billboards the same way again. Next, we are shooting off to Tangier, in my personal high point of the entire Bourne series. This is more generic Bourne. The hero takes on another assassin, just as advanced and deadly as he is. The chase goes on from explosion, to tense chase and then an almighty punch-up. Your heart is in your mouth the entire time, Greengrass an expert at taking that tension as high as it can go, without ever over-doing it. The thrills of Bourne across the Tangier rooftops gets to me every time without fail. While I don’t think the Bourne franchise has, or ever will, top the dizzy heights of that scene, the final fights are more satisfying narratively. We get to the end of the rabbit hole and while the twist at the other end of it is partially to be expected, it still works as a terrific revelation for such an iconic character. And this mad rush of a movie ends with a killer moment. Visually, it is beautiful. Emotionally, it is heart-stopping. But best of all is the Bourne sound-track that chimes in as the scene ends. The Best of Bourne.
Final Verdict: Bourne just keeps getting better and better. It would have been nice to end the series here and let the power of a trilogy become timeless.