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Overall Rating

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

7 reviews, 43 user ratings

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Bourne Ultimatum, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Doesn't stay with you, but it quickens your pulse while it lasts."
4 stars

At the end of a long and bruising car chase in 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' the cars come to a smashing halt, and the camera vibrates as if from the impact and continues vibrating for a few seconds. Behind me, people complained about the near-incessant “shakycam” technique employed by the director, Paul Greengrass.

Though he’s only recently vaulted to international success with United 93 and this film’s predecessor The Bourne Supremacy, Greengrass is no young upstart who whips his handheld around out of filmmaking ADD — he’ll turn 52 this month. Obviously the tremulous, stress-inducing (and, for some, nausea-inducing) technique expresses a forceful you-are-there aesthetic for Greengrass; he used it to brutal effect in United 93. But those, like me, who appreciate clarity in action sequences may feel the same visual impact could be attained by filming a blender for two hours.

In The Bourne Ultimatum, the tormented ex-agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), pursued by the CIA and by “deep cover” spooks who claim full authority to kill, gets closer to the truth of who he is. Diamond-hard and close-cropped, Damon is all business in the Bourne movies, yet he understands how to smuggle in small flickers of doubt, remorse, frailty. Jason may be running on autopilot — at this point, he’s a bunch of nerve endings humming entirely on instinct — but Damon isn’t; he provides a quiet, assured center for these hyperactive movies, in which the camera zips madly around the room even during simple conversations.

Gray-haired eminence David Strathairn, as a merciless head spook, stands in a control room and rattles off orders, most of which bounce right off the cool blonde Joan Allen, as the ethical CIA director. The clenched sparring between Strathairn and Allen — he’s almost dashing, she’s never more sultry than when she’s long-haired and hard-bitten in these Bourne flicks — is the closest the film comes to romance. Jason, meanwhile, pairs off with Julia Stiles, a baby Joan Allen, as the junior agent from the previous films. When Stiles dyes and crops her hair late in the game, just like Jason’s doomed paramour (played by Franka Potente in the first two Bournes), Damon permits Jason a tiny expression of 404: Page Not Found before he clicks out of his emotional browser and gets down to business again.

The Bourne movies are about pursuit and assault; they’re perpetual-motion machines. As such, they entertain inside the moment but leave you with few leftovers. A sequence in which Strathairn’s goon squad tracks Bourne and a journalist through some of the most densely busy parts of London is a taut, dizzying triumph of suspense and narrowly-averted disaster — hats off to editor Christopher Rouse, who keeps the events skipping along maliciously. The hand-to-hand fight scenes have a certain feral nastiness; Greengrass and cinematographer Oliver Wood manage to give the impression of bone-splintering force without actually showing much of it. And then there are the vehicular bits — motorcycle, car — which really test the mettle of one’s stomach. Greengrass makes a car chase look high-speed and terrifying, something we wouldn’t want to try at home — admirably realistic, perhaps, but it takes some of the fun out.

I like the idea of the Bourne movies more than I like the actual movies. I don’t begrudge anyone’s enjoyment of them. But such high skill and intelligence go into these films, along with an up-to-the-minute mood of ominous paranoia about what really goes on behind closed doors, that the end result — an embittered, whittled-down spy vs. spy story — feels undercooked and underachieving.

These are essentially 007 movies for Generation X, grounded in drab, coffee-cup-laden offices and preoccupied with questions of identity. They’re worth it for Matt Damon, who does small, delicate work when he’s not throwing people down flights of stairs, and Joan Allen, that wicked woman with a Puritan’s name, who single-handedly makes any movie smarter and sexier.

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originally posted: 08/06/07 11:44:38
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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
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  03-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-Dec-2007



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