Few would guess that Matt Damon would be an outstanding choice for the lead in an action franchise. However, three films later, Damon has not only proven himself capable of carrying the "Bourne" films, but has made it hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Whereas other spy thrillers looked to the "Bond" series for inspiration, now it seems like the "Bourne" series has taken over that role.
The third feature, once again directed by Paul Greengrass, is just as good as the film that came before it, although I still favor Doug Liman's original slightly. The film opens with Bourne on the run once again, fueled by the desire to learn more about his true identity, and moreso the rage of losing his love, Marie (Franka Potente), in the second film.
However, as Bourne's quest goes deeper in this film, he also quickly finds that there are forces that rise up in order to do away with him. In this case, it's a covert arm of the CIA, lead by Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), who believes that Bourne remains too great a risk. However, Bourne has found a source in Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), a reporter for the Guardian, and unlikely allies in agents Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who were formerly among those who plotted to take Bourne out of the picture.
The film jumps around the Globe - London, Madrid, Paris, Tangiers, Turin, New York City - as Bourne tries to solve the mystery of his own past, with a small force of assassins on his tail. It's difficult to believe, but the picture almost maintains a more consistent momentum than the prior two films, which also operated with remarkable swiftness and urgency, but stopped to take a breath on a couple of occasions. "Ultimatum", on the other hand, is essentially a story woven into one long chase sequence.
There is an enjoyable story here, although it does seem less developed and dense than the prior two films. There's a few patches of clunky dialogue here, as well - a first for the series and I can only wonder if it's due to the involvement of credited writer George Nolfi (superb screenwriter Tony Gilroy - who is credited as the writer for the other two films - is also credited here), whose terrible script was behind the disappointing "Ocean's 12". When the movie isn't focusing on the chase between Bourne and his persuers, it's focusing on the battle of wills between Landy and Vosen.
As for the chase sequences, they once again excite not only for the skill and choreography involved, but for the fact that Bourne must outwit his enemies in the moment, and the films have always built tension around Bourne's ability to plan split-second escapes, the grandest of which occurs in a scene late in the picture with Bourne in NYC that leads to a spectacular car chase off a multi-level parking garage and through the streets.
Damon once again gives a terrific performance, managing to make a character who is mostly internal compelling and dynamic. The character's inward personality gives the swiftness in which Bourne suddenly goes into action all the more impact. Julia Stiles, whose character has largely been in the background in the two movies before this one, suddenly has more of a role here, and she's very good in her scenes with Damon. Strathairn and Allen are also wonderful as the two agents going up against one another about what to do about Bourne.
While not quite up to the level of the first film, the third in the "Bourne" series still ranks above the great majority of blockbuster fare released to theatres recently. I'd be thrilled to see this franchise continue on beyond the initial trilogy.
VIDEO: "The Bourne Supremacy" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is mostly first rate, although a couple of minor concerns occasionally presented themselves. Sharpness and detail seemed solid for the majority of the film, although the occasional moment looked slightly softer in comparison. Most scenes, though, looked crystal clear, with fine details visible.
As for faults, some brief, slight traces of artifacting were spotted once or twice. The print used looked to be in fine condition, with no specks, marks or other signs of wear. The film's steely, subdued color palette looked accurately rendered here, with no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones looked accurate, while black level looked strong.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is excellent, with John Powell's magnificent score once again being a large help in propelling the movie forward. Surrounds kick in with reinforcement for the score and - during the more intense sequences - various sound effects and ambience. Much of the movie sees a rather forward-oriented soundtrack, with a nice spread across the front soundstage. Audio quality remained terrific, with a rich, full-sounding score and crisp, clear effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: Director Paul Greengrass offers an audio commentary for the feature. "Man on the Move" is an excellent 23-minute featurette that takes viewers through the process of trying to film major scenes in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Tangier. "Rooftop Chase" and "New York Chase" are reasonably interesting (although not especially in-depth) featurettes looking at the film's two major action sequences. We also get: "Planning the Punches" and "Driving School", looking at Damon's training for the fights and driving. Finally, a little over 12 minutes of deleted scenes are offered, with no optional commentary.
Final Thoughts: While not quite up to the level of the first film, the third in the "Bourne" series still ranks above the great majority of blockbuster fare released to theatres recently. I'd be thrilled to see this franchise continue on beyond the initial trilogy. The DVD presentation looks and sounds great, and offers a few nice extras. Highly recommended.
The Film A-