It is rare for Hollywood to make an action movie that can keep audiences captivated for its entire duration. "The Bourne Ultimatum" is that rare gem of an action movie that is engaging viscerally and intellectually.
Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne in this third of the Bourne movies - based on the popular Robert Ludlum novels - along with director Paul Greengrass, who also helmed the second instalment "The Bourne Supremacy".
Damon's Bourne continues on his quest to find out what his motives for killing people are: He is fully aware that he is a killer but has no idea how he became one. And since he has amnesia he has to depend on vague fleeting memories to piece together the puzzle.
He might be troubled but he is also resolute. He wants to find out how he became what he is. It is this resoluteness and the quest that is the heart and soul of the movie.
The most exciting aspect of the movie is the momentum of the action. In essence it is just one long chase scene. It sets the pulse from the word go and for its entire duration does not miss a beat.
The movie begins by jumping in exactly where the second movie ended and doesn't bother to provide any background details. For those who have not seen the first two instalments, this movie will be slightly confusing.
The chase scenes are exhilarating but not in a stylistic way. The director employs the hand-held camera technique, which makes us feel we are in the centre of the action. The action has an organic feel to it.
In a one-on-one fistfight sequence there is no background music but just the sound of heavy breathing and cracking bones. Since it is in an apartment the two fighters resort to using a book, a rag and a toothbrush. It is a testament to the genius of the director that he creates engrossing action without resorting to explosions and blood.
Damon fleshes out his role with great subtlety. And the cast is rounded off well by some fine performances. Joan Allen returns as Pamela Landy, the CIA boss who is responsible for catching Bourne.
Scott Glen appears briefly as CIA director who just wants his subordinates to get the job done without involving him and the Oscar-nominated David Strarthairn is a company representative who is muscling in the operation to nab Bourne.
The legendary Albert Finney drops by to play the man responsible for making Bourne a killing machine. Julia stiles is Nicky Parsons, a young agent who has known Bourne from the beginning and provides what little information she can to him.
Another merit of this movie is the global locales. It jumps from London to Moscow, Paris, Tangier and New York. In "The Bourne Supremacy", a pivotal development of the story where a key member gets killed takes place in Goa.
Bourne speaks every language he will need to know in any place he finds himself in. Though the movie shifts locales the thread of Bourne's purpose runs clearly through and the pulse is steadily maintained.
The movie has fared well at the box office internationally and is sure to boost the fortunes of Damon and the director. But on a cinematic level, the movie has just raised the bar for action movies and Hollywood is going to have to scramble to keep pace with Bourne.