MOVIE REVIEW ★★★ ½ One Dizzying Ride

‘Bourne Ultimatum’ Great Film But a Little Shaky

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Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, tries to evade capture in London’s underground in “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Universal Studios

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: An Aug. 27, 2007 review of “The Bourne Ultimatum” misspelled the name of the CIA agent played by Joan Allen. Allen’s character is Pamela Landy, not Pam Landry.

The Bourne Ultimatum

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Written by Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Albert Finney, and Joan Allen

Rated PG-13

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The Bourne Ultimatum,” the latest release in the Bourne movie series, is the epitome of a summer thriller: action-packed with enough suspense to leave you on the edge of your seat and wanting more. “Ultimatum” picks up where the last movie, “The Bourne Supremacy,” left off, and it features most of the cast from the first two films (or at least the living characters), including Matt Damon as the title character Jason Bourne, Julia Stiles, and the amazing Joan Allen. Even if you didn’t see the last two movies, or you’re like me and forgot some of the details, the movie is still worth seeing.

But for those who would like a recap of where the second movie left off: Jason Bourne has gotten a taped confession from someone who worked with the CIA to set up the program that trained him. Meanwhile, Bourne, who the CIA believes is dead, is in search of more information about his history so that he can try to understand the flashbacks that are tormenting him.

The movie opens with a journalist who is researching Bourne and the experimental program used to train him. Bourne tries to protect this journalist, but in the process, the CIA learns that he is in fact alive. From this point forward, the movie is the traditional game of cat and mouse with Bourne trying to discover his identity and the CIA trying to discover Bourne — with a few car chases and explosions thrown in for good measure.

One of the great things about the Bourne series is that there is enough mystery built into the storyline to keep the audience interested both during and between action scenes (not that there is much of the latter). We are always guessing what will happen next. And even though we don’t always understasnd what is happening (even after it is explained), it’s not always crucial to weave the little details and double crosses into a coherent story in order to enjoy the film. At the end of the day, the reason anyone watches this movie is to see the action scenes, and it doesn’t disappoint. There are car chases, motorcycle chases, an amazing trip through a train station, and a car driving off a roof, to name a few of the essentially non-stop action sequences.

Although the focus of the movie is on the heart-racing action sequences, there is some character development and at least a few pages of dialogue (though I’m pretty sure Matt Damon averaged a lot of money per word). The character with the most development in the film would have to be Pam Landry (Joan Allen), one of the people working with the CIA to find Bourne. Though she was in the last movie, Allen’s part was much smaller and did not give her the room to show off her impressive acting talents. In contrast, in this film, we see her as more of a person rather than a plot device, and Allen brilliantly portrays her character as a strong woman with a great sense of morals. Like Allen, Julie Stiles’ role in this movie is greater than in either of the past films, and she uses this additional time on screen to show that she can play a mysterious and adult character. Both women shine in their roles with their subtle, yet realistic portrayals of complicated characters.

Despite the great action sequences and the interesting storyline, the movie has one major flaw: the camera work. Director Paul Greengrass (who also directed the “The Bourne Supremacy”) does not seem to believe in a steadycam. Instead, the whole of the two hour movie is shot with more movement than even the worst home movies. Sure, this technique adds some drama to action scenes, but it also adds confusion. I could get over it if he merely shot in this manner for motion shots, but he doesn’t. No, he shoots the entire movie this way. By the end, my head was spinning. After all, when I’m just watching two people sitting down and having a conversation, I really don’t want to feel dizzy. But if you can get over some of the crazy filming techniques, “The Bourne Ultimatum” is a pretty great summer movie.