More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.12%
Average: 2.35%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.35%

7 reviews, 43 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Backfire by Jack Sommersby

Hit List, The (1993) by Jack Sommersby

Banker, The by Jack Sommersby

Boogey Man/The Devonsville Terror, The by Jack Sommersby

Truck Stop Women/Stunts by Jack Sommersby

Competition, The by Jack Sommersby

Hollywood Harry by Jack Sommersby

Zappa by Rob Gonsalves

Last Vermeer, The by alejandroariera

Cyclone by Jack Sommersby

subscribe to this feed

Bourne Ultimatum, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Bourne To Be Bad-Ass"
5 stars

I am fairly certain that if I were strapped down and forced to take a pop quiz on the myriad plot details of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” I would fail it miserably–the only comfort in that is my suspicion that if Robert Ludlum were still alive, he would probably do just as badly and he is the guy who wrote the equally labyrinthine novel that it is based on in the first place. And yet, even though I may be fuzzy on the exact details of who Person A might be and the reasons why they went to Country B to perform Mysterious Task C, my vision of the film as a whole is as sharp and crystal-clear as can be. Simply put, this is one of the best thrillers to come along in recent memory–a wildly kinetic thrill-ride that manages to respect your intelligence with smart writing and fine performances while still jolting your adrenaline levels to unsurpassed heights with jaw-dropping action setpieces–and even if some of the details remain clouded in the end, it is more than likely that you will be too breathlessly excited by the previous two hours of top-notch filmmaking to either notice or care.

Picking up shortly after the events of the previous film, 2004's “The Bourne Supremacy” (and a refresher course on both that film and 2001's “The Bourne Identity” is strongly recommended for anyone attempting to view this one), “The Bourne Ultimatum” once again finds amnesiac secret agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) desperately trying to put together the pieces of his fragmented past so that he can discover who he really is, who was behind the mysterious Project Treadstone made him the deadly superspy that he is today and why those people clearly won’t rest until they see him dead. His search gets a big boost when he reads a newspaper expose by a British reporter (Paddy Considine) that mentions him by name in conjunction with an unknown U.S. government plan known as Operation Blackbriar. This is startling news to Bourne and he arranges to meet with the reporter to gather more information in the hopes that it will help him in his quest for answers. This is also startling news, for entirely different and far more sinister reasons, to Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), a CIA higher-up who was a key designer of Project Treadstone, and he sends a hit squad led by one of the few remaining Treadmill operatives (Edgar Ramirez) to eliminate both Bourne and the reporter so that Blackbriar, which he is also in charge of, can go ahead without any interruptions.

Of course, this latest attempt of Bourne’s life goes about as well as the others and Vosen is forced to bring in Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the CIA operative who led the pursuit of Bourne in the previous film, to help him track down Bourne once and for all. Although Landy doesn’t quite buy Vosen’s contention that Bourne is a national security threat–nor does she realize that she is to be used as a potential scapegoat if things go bad–she agrees to help in the pursuit from France to Tangiers to New York and virtually all points in-between. While evading his pursuers by any means necessary, Bourne goes around trying to piece together what Blackbriar is and how he ties in with it. Along the way, he once again runs into CIA analyst Nicki Parsons (Julia Stiles), whose supervisor may have been the one who supplied the reporter with the information about Bourne, Treadmill and Blackbriar in the first place. After a series of eye-popping chases and brutal fight scenes, Bourne finds himself face to face with a shadowy figure (Albert Finney) who may indeed hold also the answers he is looking for. Then again, maybe he doesn’t–it is, after all, that kind of movie.

The more I think about it, which is almost always dangerous with a film of this type, I’m not sure whether “The Bourne Ultimatum” contains too much plot or too little. As I look back on the pages of notes that I took, I suspect that it is the latter since the storyline doesn’t really add much of anything new to what we have gleaned from the previous installments until the third-act entrance by the Albert Finney character. Under normal circumstances, a second sequel that doesn’t offer much of anything new in the narrative department runs the severe risk of coming across like a tired retread of material that we have already seen twice before. Here, though, that is not the case because while screenwriters Tony Gilroy (who worked on the previous “Bourne” films), Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi and director Paul Greengrass (who also directed “The Bourne Supremacy”) are clearly serving up leftovers, they handle them with such a skillful touch that the end results are even tastier now than they were before. The actual machinations of the plot may be perplexing but the way they have been deployed is anything but–no matter how wild the proceedings get, the story is told in such a fluid and graceful manner that you always instinctively know what is going on even though there is no way that you could explain it to anyone latter on. This kind of narrative shorthand is a difficult thing to pull off–done incorrectly and you are stuck with a bunch of uninteresting characters dodging explosions for reasons that you can’t even begin to pretend to show any working interest in understanding (in other words, you wind up with the likes of “Transformers” or “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”)–but it is done beautifully here.

Of course, most people probably won’t be paying that much attention to the narrative (at least not the first time they see it) because they will be too slack-jawed with amazement at the incredible action sequences deployed throughout–at times, it feels as if the entire film is one extended action sequence. Again, this is the kind of non-stop kinetic filmmaking that can lead to an exhausting disaster in the wrong hands–as everyone who saw “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” can attest, it is virtually impossible to sustain a level of peak excitement for an entire two-hour running time–but “The Bourne Ultimatum” is the kind of flat-out action extravaganza that is generally found only in the minds of film fans and very rarely on an actual movie screen. Part of this is because Greengrass, cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Christopher Rouse (both of whom also worked on “The Bourne Supremacy”) know just how far they can push their technical tricks–whiplash cuts and wild camerawork–before completely confusing and disorienting viewers and they take things to those limits in each scene while still taking care to make sure that viewers know where all of the characters are at any given time in relation to each other so that the tension isn’t lost. (If you doubt me, check out the extended train station sequence in which Bourne guides the reporter away from the CIA operatives that he has instantly clocked–this scene alone is a little master class in the art of cinematic storytelling.)

Another part comes from the effort that has gone into making the action scenes seem fresh and exciting–not the easiest task in the world when you can pretty much guarantee that the hero is going to somehow survive virtually every scrape he gets into. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are a striking blend of graceful choreography and gritty brutality that isn’t often seen these days. (I especially like the close-quarters battle in which Bourne fends off an attacker using such seemingly non-lethal weapons as books and towels.) Having reset the bar for pedal-to-the-metal car chases in “The Bourne Supremacy,” Greengrass somehow manages to top that achievement here not once, but twice with a pair of wild auto rallies through crowded streets. However, the most spectacular stunt in the film is one that quietly sneaks up on you–a bit in which Bourne leaps from one building to another. This may not sound that mind-blowing on paper but when you see how it is staged, I guarantee that you will be goggle-eyed with amazement even if you have already seen the lousy pre-movie promo feature that explains how it was done.

However, the real element that separates the Bourne films from all of the other jumbo-sized action franchises is the quality of the acting, as aspect that is usually the last thing to be commented on in a movie of this type. Although there were quite a few people who doubted whether Matt Damon could pull off a role like Jason Bourne at first–sure, he could act but could he be convincing in a fight scene?–but he started off strong and has just gotten better and better as the films have progressed and his work here is as strong and assured as anything that he has ever done in a film. As the big new addition to the cast, David Strathairn, best known for his portrayal of the ultra-rigorous and morally upright Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, And Good Luck” is effectively cast against type here as the blandly evil CIA stooge–without overplaying his hand, he brings a quiet and deadly malevolence to virtually every one of his line readings. Such always-reliable performers as Albert Finney, Joan Allen and Scott Glenn (as the slippery CIA chief) get a lot of mileage out of their relatively brief turns. Even Julia Stiles, an actress whom I normally like but who seemed oddly out of place in this series, comes off far better here than in her earlier turns as the improbable data analyst–her final on-screen moment is such an unexpected joy that it makes up for her lackluster work in the previous films all by itself.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” is a great bit of entertainment and serves as a reminder that a contemporary action film–a sequel, no less–can indeed be both exciting and intelligent when it has been done by people who are more interested in making a good film than in coming up with enough cool stuff to fill up the coming attractions trailer. In fact, the only down note to the entire enterprise is the talk that this will indeed be the last Jason Bourne film. This may seem like a bummer on the surface but I guess I would rather see the series go out on a high note than to seem them try to milk it for as long as they can. Besides, the only way that one could possibly follow up a film like “The Bourne Ultimatum” is to somehow top it and I can’t imagine how that could be possible.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/03/07 14:00:00
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

2/08/20 Pamela Teelucksingh One of the greatest action movies of all time 5 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell snappy & exciting 4 stars
7/03/11 slayer best action movie in decades 5 stars
6/26/11 con air outstanding 5 stars
6/19/11 terror leigh james bond wishes it could be as great as this 5 stars
5/11/11 the rock one of the best spy movies ever 5 stars
2/10/09 Todddi edge-of your seat intelligent thriller 5 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. definitely the best in the trilogy! :] 4 stars
10/28/08 blah blah amazing glad to heat they are gonna make another one 5 stars
5/07/08 Sarbu Rada A really awesome movie. I hope there's more Bourne in the coming years. 5 stars
3/05/08 dude great action 5 stars
3/03/08 R.W. Welch Another snazzy entry, tho the series begins to show signs of wear. 4 stars
2/12/08 pixie dust solid spy chase flick with too much shaky cam but fine action 4 stars
2/09/08 mike Insane high speed action. Excellent movie! 5 stars
2/05/08 Indrid Cold Am I the only one who finds these Bourne movies incredibly repetitive and shallow? 3 stars
1/26/08 Pamela White fast paced and enthralling great plot and action 5 stars
1/14/08 Anthony Feor Probably the best of the three 5 stars
12/19/07 hrow I felt greatseeing it, but depressed afterwards 4 stars
12/13/07 davidbobo20 Awesome movie! If you like first two movies, this is a must see! 5 stars
12/12/07 actioin movie fan thrilling pursuit, very good story and action good third part but camera a bit too shaky 5 stars
10/14/07 chris. good ending to a great trilogy 4 stars
10/02/07 Rick absolutely amazing, so much action, and there's also a story, unlike so many action movies 5 stars
9/09/07 Russ As good as the rest 5 stars
9/08/07 HW what a great action flic cant wait to see it the third time and then all three together. 5 stars
9/07/07 aaaetc Fast-moving, plot is Bourne trying to discover his origins, shaky camera is distracting. 4 stars
9/06/07 mr. mike non-stop thrills , with some unconvincing detours. Straitharn is outstanding and steals it. 4 stars
9/03/07 Stephen No plot, shaky camera equals very bad movie that gives headaches 1 stars
8/31/07 bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb best of the three 5 stars
8/20/07 AJ It was fairly entertaining, but it's just one big action scene--almost no plot or dialogue 3 stars
8/20/07 Steve Action All the way Through; puts the highest rated movie to shame. 5 stars
8/19/07 MP Bartley Doesn't really answer anything, but it just pulverises you into submission - and it's great 4 stars
8/19/07 Monday Morning Better than Bond & MI combined. 5 stars
8/18/07 David Graham Best of the trilogy, & the best thriller ever made, a Bourne thrill. 5 stars
8/16/07 Nick Wheres the plot, just a bunch of meaningless 'action', Dumb movie 1 stars
8/14/07 AJ Muller Phenomenal; how is it that these flicks (which were great to start with) just get better? 5 stars
8/14/07 damalc very good but, somehow, i'm just not blown away, like a lot of people are by this series 4 stars
8/12/07 KingNeutron Totally awesome - a fun ride. 5 stars
8/07/07 Captain Highcrime The come-uppance conclusion will have you remarking "Not in George Bush's America." LOL 5 stars
8/07/07 Quigley Loved every second of it. Easily the most satisfying three-quel released this year 5 stars
8/05/07 CrazyJayy Easy to follow, mindless,suspenseful, entertaining eye-coaster. 5 stars
8/05/07 Ole Man Bourbon Fun, but kinda empty. Interesting how few lines Damon actually has. 4 stars
8/04/07 Todd Kick ass movie, great way to end the trilogy. Amazing action and acting. 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  03-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-Dec-2007



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast