The Bourne Ultimatum
‘Remember everything, forgive nothing’ is the tagline for Paul Greengrass’s satisfying conclusion to the spy trilogy based on Robert Ludlum’s books, in which Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) gets his memory jogged about his previous identity, finds out exactly what the Treadstone organisation actually did to him, and finally gets some face-time with the elusive organ-grinder responsible and not the CIA monkeys he’s had to deal with before.
After Doug Liman’s passable but pedestrian opener to the franchise, the action snapped into gear in 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy when the rogue spy’s jittery sensibilities found their match in British director Greengrass’s cinema-vérité style. His Ultimatum matches its predecessor in abrasive street and rooftop action, but the terse script also artfully maintains the ongoing cat and mouse tensions between the characters. Relishing the ‘torn from the headlines’ nature of Bourne’s conflict, Greengrass’ film quickly reveals a mistrust of authority similar to Bourne’s; Treadstone is revealed as part of Blackbriar, a larger operation described by op chief Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) as ‘an umbrella for black ops which started out as an early 80s surveillance operation, taking in extradition, full envelope intrusion and experimental interrogation’. Greengrass clearly takes a dim view of government agencies playing god; a critic of the official government report into the London bombings and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, Greengrass opens with a daring set piece involving an botched security surveillance operation which ends with the death of an innocent man on the platforms of Waterloo station. Greengrass’s sympathies are made plain when Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) rebukes her intelligence superior: ‘The real question is how you got into a fire-fight in a public train station’.
The true nature of Landy’s involvement with Treadstone/Blackbriar is one of the well-handled revelations here, but there’s plenty of vividly shot chases too (sometimes as spectacular as Bourne driving backwards off a New York multi-story car-park’s roof), but he’s just as effective in more quietly evasive moments, casually flicking the alarm switch as he leaves a lift, or dropping an aerosol into a lit brazier in a crowded Moroccan Street. Greengrass films the various security operations rooms with the same roving camerawork and ear for natural dialogue that documented the air-traffic control scenes in United 93 so grittily, and, despite a regrettably cheesy last few minutes, The Bourne Ultimatum is as smart, deceptive and hard-driven as the super-spy himself.
General release from Fri 17 Aug.