Matt Damon damn near jumps off the screen, returning for the third and (he says) final time to his career-crowning role as amnesiac Jason Bourne, a killing machine out to go whup-ass on the CIA operatives who made him. The Bourne Ultimatum is a wow of an action movie with a soul that isn’t computer-generated.
Like the two previous films, this Bourne borrows only the name and the central character from Robert Ludlum’s best-selling spy novel. Paul Greengrass (United 93), who directed the last two films (Doug Liman did the first), digs out all the provocation in the script, co-written by Tony Gilroy, to plumb the violence of the minds behind global terrorism. With his handheld camera, Greengrass keeps the suspense taut as Bourne trots the globe. In Madrid, Bourne tilts emotionally with the agency’s sexy Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, finally getting her due) and battles it out with the assassin Desh (Joey Ansah) in one of the best fight scenes ever filmed. The final stop is New York, where CIA investigator Pam Landy (the reliably superb Joan Allen) wants her spy in from the cold, and her colleague Noah Vosen (David Strathairn, playing villainy with sneaky relish) wants him dead.
The movie is thunderously exciting, but what makes it resonate is the wrenching story we read on Damon’s face. We’ve waited all summer for a wild ride to grab us with more than jolts. Now it’s here. Hang on.