Hollywood Product - The Bourne Ultimatum

Bourne, again?

Genre: Spy-guy sequel

The pitch: In the third Bourne movie, amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) crosses the globe to reclaim missing parts of his memory while keeping ahead of his murderous former masters from U.S. intelligence – just like what he did in The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy.

Money shots: In London, Bourne shepherds a hapless reporter (Paddy Considine) through a snare of high-tech surveillance. In Tangiers, Bourne jumps up walls on a motorcycle and, later, leaps through windows from apartment to apartment. In Manhattan, Bourne crashes his vehicle from every imaginable angle during a high-impact car chase.

Body count: About a half dozen, counting a flashback to the death of his girlfriend (Franka Potente) in The Bourne Supremacy. Because Bourne regrets his prior career as a hitman, he avoids murder and even feels remorse after a ferocious hand-to-hand fight scene, giving Damon some moving moments.

Best line: I love the way David Strathairn’s oily spymaster refers to the CIA’s on-call assassin as “the asset,” as in, “Let’s activate the asset,” or, “Tell me when the asset’s in the nest.”

Worst line: “This is where it started for me. This is where it ends,” declares Bourne near the end. Lines such as that, along with the flashbacks and the final confrontation, make parts of Ultimatum highly reminiscent of Wolverine’s amnesia subplot from X2: X-Men United.

Product placement: Considine’s reporter, who uncovers the instigating mystery, works for the London Guardian. Bourne’s investigation begins with Google, just like any real-life detective work.

Hit single: “Extreme Ways (Bourne’s Ultimatum),” by Moby

On location: Even by espionage standards, Ultimatum features a dizzying range of locales, including Russia, Virginia, Italy, Paris, London, Spain and the film’s most exciting backdrop, Tangiers.

Political subtext: With the little American flags on the desks of the bad guys, the film sharply criticizes the CIA and speaks to the debate on torture and spying on U.S. citizens.

Hey, wait a minute: As much as I enjoy Bourne’s ability to confound pursuers with household objects such as spray cans or a rotary fan and some cellophane tape, when did he turn into MacGyver?

Better than the first two? It’s more exciting than director Doug Liman’s initial Identity but not as fresh as Paul Greengrass’ bracing sequel, Supremacy. Overall, the trilogy’s stories look pretty thin compared with Robert Ludlum’s knotty original novels.

The bottom line: Greengrass also directed last year’s United 93 and masterfully employs shaky camera work and soundtrack percussion to raise the audience’s pulse rate; he could make doing laundry unbearably exciting. Nevertheless, given the identical plots (and impassive supporting performances from Julia Stiles) in all three, it’s no wonder Jason Bourne can’t remember anything. 3 stars