The Bourne Ultimatum 4 stars
Starring Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn and Paddy Considine. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Released by Universal Pictures. Rated PG-13; 1:51.
Director Paul Greengrass supposedly joked to his star Matt Damon, “This one should be called ‘The Bourne Redundancy.’” That is funny if not quite true; the director is being unnecessarily self-deprecating. In fact, this is as solid as a sequel gets, and, for those enamored of spy thrillers, maybe the best film of the summer. Jason Bourne has been through a lot, considering his memory loss and the spooks for whom he works. This underrated trilogy’s conclusion makes clear that genre films should not necessarily be condemned. The “Bourne” series, after all, has proven to be quite good.
In this installment, Jason (Damon) is piecing through the shattered remains of his memory. It becomes clear that he is only one of a number of nameless “programmed” assassins who are collectively becoming a headache for their Washington bosses, led by mastermind Noah Vosen (played by the peerless David Strathairn). Damon manages to play Bourne with a deft combination of sensitivity and machismo. He neatly avoids the obvious pitfalls that have sunk every similar leading man from the dawn of cinema; Sly Stallone could not have played this character. Damon is now (unlike his pal Ben) the proud franchisee in two bona fide successes (this one and the “Ocean’s” operation).
Among the supporting cast, Julia Stiles makes herself quickly unwelcome, while Joan Allen and Paddy Considine hold their own nicely in scenes critical to the screw-tightening nature of the story. Considine (a Greengrass veteran) is particularly effective as an on-the-edge journalist epitomizing the film’s signature as paranoid. Greengrass, at least since “United 93” and “Bloody Sunday,” has become something of an expert at paranoia, and this film perhaps cements that reputation. Forget Neil Jordan, Danny Boyle and Guy Ritchie, Greengrass is more like an updated Clint Eastwood. It seems we are witnessing the maturation of the best director the UK offers in this generation.