Sufficiently open-ended to allow for an addition to the now completed Ludlum/Bourne trilogy, The Bourne Ultimatum becomes onscreen a propulsive thriller in which “Jason Bourne,” a super-trained amnesiac C.I.A. assassin, continues trying to discover who he really is while dodging assassination attempts, and protecting others, from the organization, which has sent him out into the cold to cover its tracks. Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Ultimatum benefits from Paul Greengrass’s accomplished direction.
Here, Greengrass can claim two important collaborators. One is his cutter, Christopher Rouse. I wrote once that Jean Rouch’s Jaguar (1955, 1967) holds the record for the number of shots per length of any film; The Bourne Ultimatum possibly shatters that record. This is a brilliant filmmaking strategy on Greengrass’s part, for the bits and pieces that his film comprises are formally correlative to Bourne’s shattered consciousness and the puzzle of identity he is doggedly piecing together. With its flashes of incoherent memory besides, the form of the film suits the mental processes by which the protagonist pursues self-discovery, hoping to reclaim what may be missing from all the loose available puzzle pieces: his soul. Editor Rouse has nimbly followed Greengrass’s formal strategy.
Greengrass’s other important collaborator is his star, Matt Damon, whose unfinished maturity and hints of soulfulness along the fast way perfectly fit the bedeviled outcast that he plays.
Albert Finney based his monster on the evil Noah Cross that John Huston played in Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974). This is also Finney’s heartfelt hommage to Huston, who drew from Finney his greatest performance (Under the Volcano, 1984). But it distracts. Every time Finney speaks, we think, “He’s impersonating Huston.”
Around the edges the film roasts the secretive Bush/Cheney administration with its appetite for having people tortured and killed.
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