By Vic Holtreman
Short version: The Bourne Ultimatum hits it out of the park as a smart, action-packed and compelling spy thriller which puts the series at 3 for 3.
I gave the first two films very high marks (5 stars for Identity and 4.5 stars for Supremacy) and this one lives up to the standards set by the first two completely.
The movie opens with a brief recap of the events at the end of the previous film, showing Jason Bourne's escape via train from the authorities in Russia and then jumps to six weeks later. At first Bourne's (Matt Damon) apparent grudge (with good reason) against the CIA doesn't seem to make sense if you recall the final scene of the previous film, but towards the end of this film it becomes clear, and in a way that is very cool regarding the timeline of the second film and this one.
He's still unstoppable and so clever in how he gets around seemingly air tight security and surveillance that it can't help but put a smile on your face. It's fascinating to watch him navigate seemingly impossible situations and get through them in a way that is at least somewhat plausible (at least in the context of the story). Although the program that gave birth to his uber-spy programming: Treadstone, seems to be dead, there is a new program that seems to have replaced it and Bourne needs to find out the details about it in order to find the men responsible for his programming and to find some closure to his situation.
I won't get into the story much in order to preserve the experience for you when you go see it, but suffice it to say that the action sequences, fights and car chases while very reminiscent of the previous film, have enough newness to them to keep it interesting. This movie and the previous one have what I think are the most realistic hand to hand fight scenes and car chases that I've seen on film. The sheer amount of beating that the cars Bourne drives seems much more like what might happen in a real world car chase at the level of intensity shown here. Most movies show ancillary damage to bystander's vehicles, but the "hero" and "villain" cars rarely sustain much damage until the very end of the chase. Here there are multiple crashes involving the hero and the main antagonist in pursuit, and many times Bourne uses those crashes to inhibit those chasing him. The hand to hand fights are also very realistic and brutal. Sure, the camera is in a bit close, but the style of the combatants is such that even if standing there watching the fight it seems that it might be difficult to follow the action due to the speed and complexity of the moves.
I can't say enough about these movies. The combination of action, suspense and thrills while still developing the characters and making the audience care about them just cannot be beat. You can take Transformers and stuff it... THIS is an action movie.