The Bourne Ultimatum

The_Bourne_Ultimatum.jpgAs good as last year’s James Bond reboot was, The Bourne Ultimatum may provide an even better action-espionage fix. Where Daniel Craig’s Bond exuded a steely sex appeal, Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne seems to run on the same grim resolve that drives 24‘s lonely man, Jack Bauer. Deprived of a past and stripped of his present (Bourne’s only love interest was dispatched by an indifferent hit man in the previous film), there’s nothing for this CIA-tuned killing machine to do except try to find out who made him what he is. And, because his CIA bosses are hunting him down at the same time he’s looking for his own answers, the proceedings get brutal. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93) stages lively, intense action sequences, full of handheld camerawork and quick-cuts editing that would teeter on the edge of chaos if not for the tight coordination and choreography of each white-knuckle set piece–Bourne even boasts one of the most exciting martial-arts-style fight scenes ever concocted for an American film. (It’s a sign of the times when the new Matt Damon movie has better fight choreography than the new Jackie Chan.)


What’s more, The Bourne Ultimatum has a moral dimension that feels contemporary. Bourne (née David Webb) spends much of the film slowly regain his memories of losing his soul — he was waterboarded until he didn’t know which way was up — but the final insult comes when his old handler asserts that the torture-addled Webb willingly signed on for that tour of duty. Bourne ends up underwater, and the audience ends up immersed in an unlikely existential dilemma. The last 20 minutes are much more banal than the preceding 90, but that’s forgivable in this case. Few Hollywood blockbusters try to pose real questions about the nature of free will and identity and a human being’s breaking point; even fewer manage to pull it off without feeling pretentious or stupid or both. A-

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