Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #152
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon and Julia Stiles
If I was in a bad mood, I would probably use this blog post as another soapbox deriding the IMDb Top 250's tendency to inflate and overrate well-made American summer action movies from the last five years. Well, I'm not in a particularly good mood, and my sentiment about the list isn't incorrect, but I'm going to be lenient with The Bourne Ultimatum because it is a damn fine movie. I first saw it on DVD while eating pizza at a neighbor's house, and it absolutely demanded my attention. I was grabbed immediately by Paul Greengrass' camera work, which would be annoying in so many movies but suits the tone of Ultimatum so well that it has to be commended. So many action movie scripts insult your intelligence and the shaky camera becomes a gimmick meant to distract you from that fact, but this film is smart, well-acted, and consistently exciting of its own merit. The shaky cam becomes an added bonus enhancing the already great film rather than a ploy to make a bad movie seem good. I can't say the same about the rest of Greengrass' filmography, I'm afraid, but it seems that The Bourne Ultimatum was a perfect storm of sorts for the director.
On the subject of Greengrass' other films, The Bourne Supremacy is one of them, a movie which precedes Ultimatum in the Jason Bourne trilogy, but doesn't find itself on the IMDb list. In fact, neither does series opener The Bourne Identity, directed by Doug Liman. Without doing a thorough analysis of the list and relying simply on my memory, I'm almost certain that this is the only third movie in a trilogy that makes the list without either of its preceding films for company. That doesn't mean anything, per se, except that the Bourne movies represent a rare case of a series actually getting better as it goes along. That probably won't continue into the fourth movie, which will probably be made without Matt Damon or Paul Greengrass attached, but at this moment in time, it's nice to reflect on the series as a self-contained trilogy that got better as it went along, and that's landmark.
I'm not going to talk plot here, since Ultimatum is the third movie in a trilogy that more or less requires some knowledge of the first two movies. The entire trilogy is worthwhile for anyone who likes action movies that don't rely purely on cliché and adrenaline. Matt Damon isn't your archetypical action star, and he brings a performance to the movie that you just wouldn't get with the likes of someone cut from the Schwarzenegger mold. Damon's three performances as Jason Bourne have gone a long way in changing the way action movies are cast, and overwhelmingly for the better. There hasn't been a better pure action flick since The Bourne Ultimatum, and until there's a similar convergence of talents operating at the peak of their powers, there won't be.
The Good: Shaky cam done right.
The Bad: Perhaps a bit too much reliance on knowing what happened in the first two films. The comic book writer's credo is that every comic is someone's first comic, so you need a certain amount of background in every issue. Ultimatum kind of just dives right in. Yes, I'm saying this because I watched it before I watched the first two.
The Skinny: I'd like to see it lower, but I don't mind seeing it on the list.