Thomas Clarke’s review:
Throughout film history, very few third movies of franchise aim and achieve the acclaim that the original film brought. With only a notable few that reach that quality - 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Star Wars' are franchises that could argue they do- because of tacky script working or a rushed development. When a franchise is very well received, both commercially and critically, then a third outing is usually green lit. 'The Bourne Ultimatum' could possibly be one such film that not only reaches the levels of the first film 'Bourne Identity' but also surpass it. Unlike the first sequel, 'Bourne Supremacy' which moved the narrative on a couple of years, 'Ultimatum' continues where the second one left off, and this is where the real strength is. The fact that it continues prior to events that have been shown before means that audiences already know what the characters have and are doing, meaning the plot can just continue to grow and develop into something more than what they expect. This does come with added pressure though, with filmmakers expected to make what the fans expect. However, for this film they have achieved what they needed, creating a thrilling and intensely interesting third outing in this explosive franchise.
Based loosely on the third novel of the Bourne series, it was written in 1990 by author Robert Ludlum. Continuing where 'Supremacy' ends, Jason Bourne, once again portrayed by Matt Damon, is still seeking answers - namely, who he is? and what is Treadstone? This search has led him to Moscow where he has just sought out and spoke to the daughter of his first assigned killing whilst working in the CIA. Suffering from flashbacks of his past self and continue to flee, he eludes local police and goes into hiding after being shot. Six weeks later a journalist for the UK national paper (The Guardian), Simon Ross, has a meeting with a source to discuss matters of security, namely Treadstone and Bourne. Picking up on a detail of highly secret operation Blackbriar, Simon Ross contacts his editor and mentions the information, picking it up as tabooed words, the CIA begin to track him in hopes of working out and stopping the source of the information. After seeing that Ross has information that might help him in his search, Bourne secretly meets with Ross at Waterloo Station. When together however, Jason soon realizes that the CIA is tracking Ross and as such, decides to help him escape. In a panicked state Ross deviates from the instructions and is instantly killed by a 'Asset' who has been given orders from Blackbriars director Noah Vosen. Thinking that Bourne is the source of the information, Noah is aided by Pamela Landy, the CIA leader who unsuccessfully hunted Bourne before. The narrative then follows both parties as they each seek individual needs, Bourne for answers and the CIA in plans to stop the person they believe to be the worlds most dangerous man. Along the narrative further conspiracies are outlined, showcasing a darker side to the CIA; conspiracies that cannot be released publicly for worry of what people will think. This plot adds a lot to the overall story-arc started in the first two films and through new characters and flashbacks, the past life of Bourne is explained. The film is at its best in the last third, where the action intensifies and the final twist is a cracking way to end the current franchise on a high.
Matt Damon returns once more as Jason Bourne, after two installments of this character he plays him extremely comfortably. Playing to his strengths throughout, Bourne begins to feel like the property of those who watch him. As he has learned, so have the audience. Therefore, Matt Damon plays on this well leading to a very well presented lead character throughout. Like the second movie, he primarily takes the narrative alone, aside from a section that has Nicky Parsons, played in both this film and 'Supremacy' by Julia Stiles (who has been bumped up to major cast and not just a background character). Like the chemistry between Marie and Bourne, Damon and Stiles play it well together. For those who have followed the film from the beginning, the fact that more time is given over to another Treadstone member is a great pay off in regards to overall plot development. Replacing Brian Cox, whose character Ward Abbott died in the last installment, is David Strathairn (Noah Vosen) and Albert Finney (Dr.Albert Hirsch). Two CIA operatives who bulk out the conspiracies and mystery surrounding Bourne, through both being not who they seem. Joining the already made ensemble of this film, the pair act to the same high quality one would expect from the franchise and as such this film feels apart of one major story arc and not three little ones joined by a name. Like everything else, the cast have pushed the limit in presenting the narrative in the best way possible.
Using the same techniques as what the other two films did, 'The Bourne Ultimatum' adds more to the style but keeping all productions tied together. Those who have not watched from the beginning will struggle to understand what is occurring, but those who have will not be disappointed. Matt Damon has cemented this role as his. Changing the way spy thrillers were produced, this film marks a ultimate high for the trilogy to end. One rare occasion where filmmaking talent and strong source material has led to a complete and exciting franchise to be developed in its complete entirety.