Hey Shrek, Pirates, Spider-man, and Ocean’s, take notes. This is how you do a threequel. One of the things that makes the Bourne movies so enjoyable is that we like everything about the character of amnesiac assassin, Jason Bourne. His identity crisis, his unwavering determination, his super-human skills of observation, strategy and combat all make him captivating. It’s never about the story situation that he finds himself in. In a way that might make a Bourne movie simpler to create because you can reuse elements from previous films, count on Matt Damon’s steely performance, and expect a good sequel. I think the creators understand that, so they tried to put a bit more pay-off in Bourne Ultimatum for loyal viewers who have enjoyed all the elements of the Bourne oeuvre. The intricate car chases down stairs and alleys; the scaling of walls, roofs and fire-escapes; the cat-and-mouse game in a crowded public area, and the kinetic hand-to-hand in close quarters (even a penchant for using reading materials as deadly weapons) are all a part of Bourne’s M.O. However, in this movie they also come across as Jason Bourne’s greatest hits (no pun intended). They’re all brought back with a knowing (yet non-ironic) wink: “We know you liked the magazine scene from the last movie. See what Bourne can do this time with a text book.”
Along with the Bourne-isms, two characters have also returned: Nicky Parsons, the seemingly naive logistics officer played by Julia Stiles in both previous Bourne movies, and Pamela Landy, the getting-a-clue CIA ball-buster from Bourne Supremacy played with perfect rhythm by Joan Allen. (Landy gets promoted to the back of the room to watch smugly as Bourne outwits and outplays his latest CIA hunter, Noah Vosen — played by David Strathairn.) The other great reason for bringing Landy back is that this movie actually overlaps with Supremacy. When Ultimatum begins, we’re back in Moscow after Bourne was injured in the tunnel car chase with Russian hit man Kirill. Like Bourne recovering memory fragments, we viewers get to piece together some of the events that we didn’t see on screen (I’d always wondered how Bourne was able to recover enough to make it to see Neski’s daughter). Remember the epilogue from Supremacy where Bourne calls Landy up in New York and she tells him his real name and he tells her to get some rest? That was an awesome epilogue but you will not believe what else was going on while they were having that conversation — boy, do I love “the other side of the story” scenes!
Before watching the movie, I didn’t really know what Ultimatum was going to be about (plot-wise). As I mentioned, I don’t think that part really matters too much. However, from ads and previews you know we go back to what made Bourne who he is, and it’s not really much of a shock, frankly. It’s also not suprising that more CIA corruption is revealed, involved with covering and cleaning up the black ops program (after all, it’s been a story thread throughout the entire Bourne series). Still, it was nice to get some closure for Bourne. The biggest function of the threequel is to come full circle. Not only does Ultimatum do that by tying up the loose ends of Bourne’s past, but for the movie audience there are flashbacks and some obvious visual echoes to the previous movies that also bring the series full circle. By the end, I was totally there with the character on screen (no, I won’t say who) and her satisfied grin. The only question remaining was how they would handle Moby’s “Extreme Ways” playing over the end credits. The answer: remix. (5 out of 5)