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I must admit that from the first few frames of “The Bourne Identity,” I've been a Jason Bourne fan. Even before James Bond's gritty reboot in “Casino Royale,” I thought that Bourne was what Bond wanted to be. No quips, no witty one-liners, no pneumatic blondes in swimwear. Just a guy who looks like a pissed off real estate agent breaking the law in picturesque international locales — jumping off buildings, shooting the baddies, driving real fast and basically jujitsuing the living crap out of everyone in sight.
In that regard and others, the latest installment of the adventures of our favorite amnesiac hitman, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” doesn't disappoint. Faster, smarter and more intense than the other films in the series (which pretty much rewrote the book on fast, smart and intense when it comes to action thrillers), “Ultimatum” is both the perfect bookend to the Bourne trilogy and a stylish new benchmark for the genre.
Picking up where “Supremacy” left off, rogue super-agent Jason Bourne (Damon) is still trying to figure out his past and regain his memory, which — since the end of “Supremacy,” we soon find – has started returning to him in crippling flashbacks, usually at the most inconvenient time. Meanwhile, Blackbriar — the above top-secret CIA program that sought to create Bourne and a whole stable of emotionless human killing machines — has a new boss, the thoroughly slimy Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). After Vosen learns that a British reporter is looking into the Blackbriar project (how Vosen learns about the reporter's interest is enough to make any Bush-era lover of liberty shudder — especially given how likely it could be), he hastily concludes that Bourne is probably the source of the reporter's information. With that, and against the advice of Bourne's old boss Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Vosen again turns the might of America's black ops wing toward the elimination of Jason Bourne — which is a tremendously bad idea, given that in the last two flicks, Bourne has killed more people than Hurricane Katrina. Trying to both evade the death squads and figure out what Vosen knows abut Blackbriar and the mysterious Dr. Hirsch (Albert Finney) who ran it, Bourne soon makes his way to New York City, where he matches wits with the CIA hitmen, government surveillance gurus, and, finally, Vosen himself.
Even though I've always found Matt Damon to be a little flat as an actor, in the case of Bourne, Damon's flatness and everyman looks work with the character instead of against it. Damon turns in about as nuanced a performance as you can expect from a movie with this many car chases. Also good is Julia Stiles as Bourne's CIA contact turned accomplice. The real star of the “Ultimatum,” however — as in the case of the previous Bourne films — is adrenaline, and there is plenty to be found here. Director Paul Greengrass employs a fluid, always moving eye behind the camera, often shooting through handheld cameras to give the claustrophobic feeling of being watched. It works perfectly with the machine-gun pace of the film, and with Bourne's improvisational style when cornered. On foot and behind the wheel, with fists, feet, towels, books and broken chair legs, Bourne manages to always get the better of the bad guys, usually in a spray of blood and broken glass. The result is a movie where the thrills simply do not stop, from beginning to end. Check this one out.