Jason Bourne indeed comes home in The Bourne Ultimatum and, boy, what a homecoming. The Paul Greengrass-directed sequel is a slam-bang conclusion to one of the most unique and adult action franchises ever produced by a major studio, and leaves the audience hoping that series star Matt Damon will reconsider his statement that this is the final Bourne film.
Ultimatum is the most relentlessly-paced entry in the frenetic series, starting off in mid-action just weeks after The Bourne Supremacy left off. An injured Jason Bourne, a.k.a. David Webb (Damon), escapes from Russia and is making his way through Europe when he reads an article about himself in Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
Seeking out the article's author, reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), Bourne knows Ross' source had to be a high-ranking CIA official. He wants to meet Ross' source not to kill him, but to find out more about his true identity and who made him what he is today.
Ross' article threatens to expose the super-secret Blackbriar operation, a clandestine ops group within the CIA that makes the previous films' Treadstone group look like the Watergate burglars. The CIA, obviously, doesn't want the bloody truth about what Blackbriar is doing exposed, so they send a team to snatch Ross. The reporter's surprise savior turns out to be Bourne, whom the CIA mistakenly believe is aiding Ross and wants to expose Blackbriar. This leaves Blackbriar boss Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) one option: kill Bourne and anyone else in order to protect the agency.
The Bourne Ultimatum is the easiest of the three films to follow and that's not a bad thing. The premise is simple: The good guy wants to know information the bad guys have, and the bad guys simply want to kill the hero before he can expose them. That clarity is especially helpful since this sequel also utilizes numerous flashbacks to the first two films in order to bring viewers up to speed. These flashbacks are judiciously chosen and seamlessly integrated; their inclusion doesn't stink of "Previously, on Bourne" exposition.
Damon once again masterfully underplays Bourne, simmering with intensity that is only fully unleashed when he kicks ass and takes names (literally, since he wants information). Allen finds the humanity in Landy, while Stiles hints at the internal turmoil inside Nicky. Strathairn is like a bullet leaving the chamber: He will find his target no matter what. His casting as Voss is a brilliant subversion of the "man of integrity" persona he's become known for ..
The action scenes are breathtaking and they include some of the best foot and car chases ever filmed. Bourne's prolonged bout with CIA asset Desh (Joey Ansah) in Madrid is arguably the most brutal hand-to-hand fight yet in the series, while the car chase between Bourne and another asset, Paz (Edgar Ramirez), is like The French Connection on steroids. Bourne's superhuman-like ability to shake off almost any injury, blow or crash is utterly ridiculous, although it proves to be a key source of sly humor in the films and for the character's undeniable coolness.
Although The Bourne Identity's Doug Liman initiated the series and established its overall style, director Greengrass has, with this film and the previous sequel, made them his own and infused them with a political subtext and intelligence most blockbusters can't get away with. Greengrass has proven that Hollywood films don't have to be mindless to be fun or ponderous to be deemed smart. It will be very interesting to see what kinds of films he makes post-Bourne.