In The Bourne Identity, an assassin for a secret government program gets amnesia and attempts to figure out who he is. In The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne tries to leave what he rediscovered behind and find out who he was. The Bourne Ultimatum, the third chapter of the Jason Bourne saga, promises to deliver Jason Bourne with the answers he has been searching for to help reclaim his true identity once and for all. The psychological set ups for each of these films is fascinatingly suppressed in the character who hides his internal struggle with himself in while unleashing an external struggle in the form of intense car chases, hand-to-hand combat, and strategic escapes. Of course, no one wants to see their macho action-hero break down into tears behind closed doors, but the big reveal behind Ultimatum is demonstrative of the vagueness of Jason Bourne’s character.

The story starts out with Bourne tracking a London journalist who has received and written about information concerning Jason Bourne. At the same time, those working for a program that replaced Bourne’s called Blackbriar, headed by Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) believes Bourne is the source contributing to the articles and should be killed. After they find out he’s not the source, they continue to track him, knowing that Bourne is interested in seeking out the source for answers to his past and is a good person to follow.

Vosen recruits Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who dealt with Jason Bourne in the previous film, to help pursue Bourne who is on a quest to find out who he was before he became Jason Bourne. At the same time, Bourne meets up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who offers to help him seek out the source. In between, there is a motorcycle chase in Spain that leads to a rooftop pursuit and results in Bourne jumping through a window to engage in a fistfight with the assassin out to kill he and Nicky. Like the other Bourne movies, Jason skips around from city to city, ultimately landing in New York where he instigates a final confrontation, outsmarting the organization members who are after him, and with the help of Landy, is sent to the building where his career as a government assassin first began. To get there, he “commandeers” a police cruiser in a somewhat brief but climactic chase scene.

Ultimatum’s director Paul Greengrass who, for anyone familiar with his style, utilizes his handheld, shaky camerawork to the ultimately benefit of the film. In the action scenes, the camera work helps the viewer envision every punch as if it is being inflicted on themselves. The cuts are quick and the shots are tight and dizzying. While they are still trying to catch their breath from their seats, Bourne continues on without so much as a shake of the head, demonstrating how unshakable he is. The same goes for the bumpy, vehicle chase scenes with impressive and innovative tricks. The only place where his technique fails is in the quieter moments when the bouncing of the camera and the blurred close-ups detract from the attention that these scenes demand.

The actors return to their roles with a full on effort. Damon’s near-silent, clearly tormented Bourne is one of the most interesting performances to come along in the last decade because of what is not spelled out about him. Between his amnesia, the constant pursuit of him, and the death of his girlfriend, Bourne would seem to have a lot to express to someone, most of all himself, but Damon holds back to demonstrate how Bourne’s mind is meant to hold back all emotion and concentrate solely on action and results. It also helps the action elements of the film to have a character who does not hold back but at the same time is trying to right whatever wrongs he has discovered to have made in the past. Allen’s character takes a cue from Bourne in doing what she knows is right in siding with Bourne’s choice of action. Stiles subtly and unsuccessfully tries to win over the affection that Bourne keeps only for his murdered girlfriend, Marie. She plays her affections genuinely and not flirty in a way that would obviously disinterest Bourne. In fact, it is even a bit of a shock when he ignores her comforting and intimate advances.

In the end, the plot could have been significantly meatier, the history that Jason learns about himself could have been more satisfying, and the climax could have been longer. However, what is not said leaves open the possibility of sequels with more information to be unveiled in each film. However, let’s hope we get more insight into who Jason Bourne really is in the films to come, for Jason’s sake.

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