Classic Intel: The Bourne Ultimatum - DVD Review

'Unlike The Bourne Supremacy, Greengrass seems to have mastered the material completely here and The Bourne Ultimatum is arguably the most complete film of the series'

After a competent but largely unremarkable first stab at the Bourne franchise with The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrass returned to round off the trilogy with The Bourne Ultimatum, the story which would finally see Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) discover the truth about his past, his identity and his career in the CIA. Like the other Bourne films before it, Ultimatum is a more than competent thriller - a brilliant one even - that combines believable yet daring action with a compelling story wrapped in an excellent script.

Also like the other films, Ultimatum is quick, perhaps even the quickest Bourne of the series. The action globe-trots smartly and concisely, moving from plot point to plot point with just the right amount of explanation, a limited amount of exposition and a considerable amount of slickly-directed action. Unlike Supremacy, Greengrass seems to have mastered the material completely here and Ultimatum is arguably the most complete film of the series, creating the necessary drama whilst not forgetting that the Bournes are a series rooted in espionage and action.

What Ultimatum shares with Supremacy is an ability to introduce new characters who actually add to the Bourne experience, rather than providing unnecessary distractions. Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) continues as a force for good within the CIA whilst her boss becomes the ambiguous Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) who pairs her up with Bourne-hunter Noah Vosen (David Strathairn). Meanwhile, journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) appears to be getting closer to the truth than anyone whilst the obligatory CIA hoodlums/Treadstone operatives are represented by Paz (Édgar Ramírez) and Desh (Joey Ansah). For any other series this would be too much to handle but for Bourne with Greengrass at the wheel they all feel like rounded individuals and the director, working on a script by Tony Gilroy, Scott Burns and George Nolfi, manipulates them well, creating sympathies where appropriate and ensuring we look forward to the villain's just desserts.

As well as the cast of newcomers, Julia Stiles returns as Nicky Parsons, an ever-present character throughout the series. In just one single scene Greengrass shows his grasp of the individual, changing everything you thought you knew about Nicky and adding layers of extra development to films whose final reel have long since ran out. It's a masterful stroke from the director and one of many touches that elevate Ultimatum towards a level of greatness.

In comparative terms, Ultimatum holds up on every factor possible; the street pursuit and apartment fight in Morocco are the series' fight highlights, the car pursuit with Paz is the series' chase highlight, the aforementioned scene with Nicky is arguably Bourne's most touching moment, the stand-off between Bourne/Ross and The CIA in Waterloo possibly the tensest moment across the four films. Whilst Identity had the honour of introducing Bourne and producing moments like the US Embassy scene, Ultimatum is the character's triumphant swansong; a conglomeration of his best bits and a whole host of new ones beside. It's a remarkable achievement - especially in what was, by this point, a post-Casino Royale world - to produce a film that feels so fresh yet so rooted in traditional espionage-thriller territory and yet challenge the very rules by which those thrillers lived. A worthy and wonderful end to the series proper, Jason Bourne-less future sequels not withstanding.

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'the most essential action film of the last decade or so, finally dragging that tired genre out of the slow-mo gunfights of the talentless John Woo imitators and into the 21st century' - Wonders In The Dark


  1. The best of the Bourne trilogy! I was quite surprised at how good this was compared to the relatively tepid first two.

  2. Yes definitely, could watch it again right now even after such a short gap. Having said that, I also really like the first film. SUPREMACY is definitely the weakest. Still good though.