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"The Bourne Ultimatum"

Directed by Paul Greengrass.
Written by Tony Gilroy and Scott C. Burns.  Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum.
Starring Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Straithairn and Julia Stiles.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  8/8/07


As it turns out, "Bourne" is best served in thirds, because "The Bourne Ultimatum" is the best of the three in terms of pacing, intelligence and overall book-to-movie-ness.  Even as you can tell you are missing out on tons of good stuff that must have appeared in the book, you don't mind since the way director Paul Greengrass (who also did the last "Bourne" film) lays out the cat-and-mouse game of trying to track our principal character is nothing short of superb.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back, still burned up over losing his girlfriend to a sniper in the last movie and the fact that the CIA keeps trying to kill him.  That's because Bourne was the first agent in the Blackbriar program, a set of training exercises that Bourne went through eight years ago to eliminate his past life and to perfect his "trained killer" status.  We learn more about that program here, but only enough to know that Bourne was raised in the program by two guys, Daniels (Colin Stinton) and Dr. Hirsch (Albert Finney, who really does feel like he's been in both of the other "Bourne" films).  Bourne spends the rest of the movie trying to track these two guys down to learn about his past.

It's fun watching those bumbling CIA guys be not so bumbling after all; led by returning CIA director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and not-so-nice black ops guy Noah Vosen (David Straithairn), the g-men are actually quite efficient at tracking down Bourne but Bourne really is able to stay about five seconds ahead of them throughout his adventure.  The film's money sequence, as Bourne tries to speak with a London reporter while trying to dodge dozens of CIA agents at the Waterloo station in England, is the best example of smart vs. just smarter; Bourne picks up a prepaid phone and slips it into the reporter's pocket (since the CIA has bugged the reporter's cell phone), then guides the reporter through the station while watching his back for government guys bent on capturing the reporter.  It's fun, tense stuff, especially when the government sends in "assets" (like in the other films, guys that seem to be just as good as Bourne is, but...foreign) to take out our man.

The only real problem with "Ultimatum" is the same problem that the last film, "The Bourne Supremacy" had--with Bourne working alone, we don't ever get to know what's going on in his head, except for his singular pursuit of "the truth."  He's never really even talking to anyone outside of an action sequence, even when he meets up again with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), someone who hints at a past with Bourne but only for literally one line of dialogue.  It's baffling.  Never has buddy-cop banter been so necessary in a film featuring just one lead character, but it's the worst thing about this movie and probably the best thing about the books.

Luckily, the plot is always in motion and we follow the traditional Bourne story arc--chase scene, CIA banter, chase scene, fight scene, CIA banter, car chase, fight scene, CIA banter.  It works here because the banter is intelligent; however, one negative with the single fight scene is tied to the fact that the camerawork is so sloppy that watching it will cause nausea, guaranteed.  The camera is even closer than that awful fight sequence in the most recent "Batman" movie...boy, I couldn't even tell it was two guys fighting for half the scene.

Will we get more Bourne?  Actually, I don't know what else they could do with it, but luckily, there isn't a fourth Bourne book by writer Robert Ludlum, so at least we've got that going for it.  But, the movie is quite solid overall even if I'm being a little picky.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09