Cinema Signal:

Get on the trail of the rogue agent from the get go!
. "The Bourne Ultimatum"

If there's an action junkie alive who won't thrill to this display of fox-and-mouse pursuit through the streets, roofs and alleyways of five international cities then he or she needs a five-shot of Starbuck's espresso. The film's great virtue is director Paul Greengrass' staging purely in the service of screenwriter Tony Gilroy's story with a consistent clarity of motivation at every turn. There's not a camera blur or pounding note in the soundtrack that goes to waste. Add to that Matt Damon's calm and assured underplaying of the central role.

It's not that everyone's after Jason Bourne (Damon); it's that those who are want him dead and they've got the most advanced surveillance technology with which to track him down. Still, he's wily enough to stay a step ahead, even with wounds in various parts of his body and against foreign agents and killers unleashed by the CIA. Wounds don't affect his mind, a highly trained mechanism in it own right.

Demonstrating his masterful ability to anticipate his enemies' moves is the scene in which the surveillance team at CIA headquarters, run by the uncomprominsing and bloodthirsty Noah Vosen, tracks and captures Simon Ross, a New York reporter who has just disclosed the most secret and closely guarded operation, codenamed Blackbriar. No one, outside a small circle of participants, knows of it, and suddenly details are emerging in a newspaper. The leak, Ross' source, must be found.

The disclosure attracts Bourne's attention, as well, and he alerts the newsman to the danger he's in, arranging a meetup at the highly trafficked Waterloo Station in London. Arriving there, Bourne is immediately aware of the tactical teams exiting from their vehicles and spreading out in search of their "target." Bourne purchases a pre-paid cell phone, surreptitiously drops it in Ross's pocket, and talks him through a string of evasive moves to thwart all the power and planning of CIA headquarters which redoubles in energy when they catch sight of their primary quarry, Bourne himself.

Vosen, in conspiratorial league with Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) the author of the clandestine operation that has so harmfully affected Jason Bourne, is inclined to only one solution for those he considers rogue agents in the field, which is immediate death. His methods are challenged by another high-level CIA official, however. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), an intelligence expert with a larger scope of understanding, sees Bourne as a victim rather than a wild, supertrained killer, argues futilely with her corrupt colleague.

A lone man outfoxing (and outboxing) whatever is thrown at him by the most powerful spy agency in the world is irresistible, hard-to-beat drama and there isn't a moment when we're not rooting for the next display of narrow escape and the dire punishments he inflicts on his powerful adversaries.

When the master agent hooks up again with beautiful CIA field op Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) a new chemistry is brought into the mix. When Vosen realizes she's involved with Bourne, it gives him and his crew a new target and something more to think about (could she be the leak?). It gives Bourne something to think about, as well. Barely over grieving for his recently killed companion, Marie Kreutz (Franke Potente), long silences between Bourne and Parsons can't help but suggest an attraction struggling for consummation, excruciatingly frozen in a limbo of doubt and intrigue.

The mano-a-mano combat scenes are choreographed with an intensity and speed that hasn't been seen since the Aikido exploits of Steven Seagal. Those, and the most harrowing car and motorcycle stunts, are astutely crafted to integrate stuntmen and 3-frame clips with blurring continuity and credibility. As for them being coordinated on the crowded streets in London and Manhattan, and across rooftops in Tangiers, it speaks to a virtual miracle of planning and execution that must have involved some pretty (and costly) political negotiation.

Damon's natural reserve is put to superb use in his everyman-with-extraordinary-capability portrayal that strikes paydirt as the epitome of the Bourne persona. But it's only the most active ingredient of a magical formula that consists of so much supporting chemistry, not the least of which is Strathairn's disloyal brutishness, Allen's seething fury and balancing insight, Considine's innocence turned into disbelief and terror, and considerably more.

Oliver Wood's cinematography is as solid as it is wide-ranging. Selected over-the-shoulder shots are remarkably stylistic and worthy of mention. In them, the foreground character is centered or dominant enough to obscure part of the person whose face we are looking at without going to a closeup. This is most pronounced in the intensely secret moment when reporter Ross is receiving the case file on Blackbriar, when the agony of the purveyer is emphasized by our being able to see little more than his eyes and rippled brow, expressing the agony of his internal conflict over the act of disclosure he's about to commit. While the technique works remarkably well in this instance, it may be a little overused later on. And the shaky hand-held camera in close-ups elsewhere is sometimes bothersome.

In other examples of high craft, the ripping pace could hardly have been achieved quite so effectively without the skill of editor Oliver Wood in particular, who had a very big job on his hands, and the beating rhythms of a pulse-quickening score by John Powell.

If a fourth episode is made without Damon (as he's declared for the trade press) it will be a huge loss were the series to go on without the guidance of the Ludlum trilogy. Unlike my reaction to reading Ludlum's densely detailed books, the effect each movie episode has had on me is to give me a taste for more (without the expresso). I walk out of the theatre wishing for another infusion of excitement with Bourne next week but, in truth, I'll be happy with a new one anytime it comes. Huge revenues for "the Ultimatum" might argue in favor of constructing a Bourne 4. All I would ask for is that this creative team remains, for the most part, intact.

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

Links to our reviews of the first two in the trilogy:
"The Bourne Identity"
"The Bourne Supremacy"

And, did you know that there have been two books written by Eric Van Lustbader continuing the Bourne adventures?
See reviews of them here:
"The Bourne Legacy"
"The Bourne Betrayal"

The Soundtrack album

The DVD (Coming)

Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
This review will influence me to read more by and recommend this reviewer
Site rating: 9

I agree with reviewer.

                                                           ~~ Tom B. 
Very well written
This review will influence me to recommend and read more by this reviewer
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review
Site rating: 10

I agree wholeheartedly with this review primarily due to the reviewer's incredible observation and insight regarding the emotionally tense scenes between Jason Bourne and Nicky Parsons. Much of the emotional interplay between these two characters was communicated with their eyes and furtive glances, and with Nicky Parsons, looks of longing. Incredible. I, too, hope for a fourth film :) This review has certainly influenced me to seek out more of them by this reviewer.

                                                           ~~ Yvette 
I've seen the movie and I agree with the review

I, too, was amazed and surprised at the obvious attraction between Bourne and Nicky Parsons. Those long looks and silences between the two characters was superb acting by Damon and Stiles. These two said so much with little to no dialogue. Incredible. Your review was right on the money.

                                                           ~~ Emma G.

Release order
Alphabetical order
To Jbmovies
(sample frames from movies photographed
by Jules Brenner)

All Reviews
Books, DVDs, Music, Restaurants

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
Tripping lightly on the roofs of Tangiers.
Help us to continue
bringing you these reviews...
visit our sponsors (just a click will do it)