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The Bourne movies have been a surprise at every turn. The first one showed up in theaters out of nowhere packed with balls to the wall action, courtesy of an actor once thought of as momma’s boy Oscar winner convincingly playing the biggest super-spy badass since James Bond. By the second film audiences came prepared, assuming they knew what they were in for; but new director Paul Greengrass took Bourne’s story to an entirely new level and left just about everyone picking themselves up off the floor. Now Bourne is back for a third and final adventure in The Bourne Ultimatum, and nothing has changed even though nothing is the same. Get ready to have your ass blown out of the theater because once again Greengrass and Damon deliver on a movie packed with more “holy shit did that just happen” moments than you can shake a sub-machine gun at.
Greengrass hasn’t just topped the previous Bourne movies in every way, he’s raised the bar for the spy and action genres for years to come, and he’s done it in a movie without very little dialogue. This is Matt Damon’s Cast Away except without a volley ball sidekick and with minute after minute of pulse pounding peril and violence instead of slow starvation. Damon plows through The Bourne Ultimatum like a force of nature; a silent, a living weapon on a mission of determined, unstoppable discovery. That’s right, discovery. In The Bourne Supremacy Bourne made the bad guys pay. This time he’s had enough and wants to know who he is. Bourne simply wants to be done with everything and he’s not the kind of guy that takes no for an answer.
The action is absolutely unbelievable, eye-popping stuff. I’m not just talking about one or two big action sequences here. Every second, every moment of The Bourne Ultimatum is jammed with danger, pounding and pounding against the screen in unstoppable waves of energy and intensity. Greengrass never lets up, not even for a second. His cameras keep rolling and Matt Damon keeps moving, putting plans together on the fly and eliminating obstacles one by one as he moves in a steady, straight line towards his final goal in a complicated, rhythmic dance of controlled destruction. We’re swept right along with him, and if you’re like me your nails will be firmly buried in the arm of your chair the film’s entire 111 minutes.
What is perhaps even more amazing than the movie’s ability to do things that’ll make your jaw drop, is the way it manages to do character development in the middle of all those car crashes and explosions, and does it without words. So much of the credit for that has to go to Damon, who even though he’s not talking says volumes with what’s going on behind that stoic, no-nonsense expression Bourne keeps wearing. Without saying a word, Damon puts together a complete picture of what his now familiar character is going through, not just externally but internally as well. Bourne is a living weapon, but a suffering, breathing, feeling weapon who, more than ever you’ll find yourself rooting for.
If there’s anything to be disappointed in here it’s that The Bourne Ultimatum is almost certainly the last one. Every movie has improved on the last, culminating in a third film which is easily the best movie of the summer and probably the best action movie of the year. Imagine where they might have taken it for a fourth movie. Jason Bourne is going out on top, don’t forget to duck the shrapnel that comes flying out of the screen.