After three years of traveling around the globe, government-trained assassin/amnesiac Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is close to finding out who he is. But a relentless CIA official (a terrific David Strathairn) would rather Bourne wind up at the bottom of a river than get to the bottom of his past.
Big question: Can the last part of the trilogy follow two good movies with a great one and live up to Damon's supremely entertaining, early-season sequel, "Ocean's Thirteen"?
Catch it: Bourne saves his best globetrotting and mental maneuvers for last, and a confident, determined Damon lets you see every conflicted thought of a character who's basically half man, half pre-programmed machine. The series also finally figures out how to keep its pulse racing even when stopping to take a breath--leaving you hanging in suspense one minute and gasping seconds later.
Skip it: If you don't mind being in the dark about the applause-inspiring mid-movie fight that everyone will be talking about. We'd tell you about the heart-pumping chase, endless array of weapons and totally badass hand-to-hand combat, but, hey, you said you didn't want to know.
Bottom line: This is how you do a third installment, avoiding the mild contrivance of the first and coldness of the second in order to kick everything up a notch and a half. A strained study of human conscience doesn't change the fact that "Ultimatum" is summer's prime noisemaker, with twice the adrenaline of "Live Free or Die Hard" and more crushed metal than "Transformers."
Bonus: Lindsay Lohan has a new motto to take with her to movie sets and to court, courtesy of CIA sleaze Noah Vosen (Strathairn): "My number one rule is hope for the best, plan for the worst."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'The Bourne Ultimatum'
Directed by Paul Greengrass; screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum; photographed by Oliver Wood; edited by Christopher Rouse; music by John Powell; production design by Peter Wenham; produced by Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley and Paul L. Sandberg. A Universal Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:55. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence and intense sequences of action).
Jason Bourne - Matt Damon
Nicky Parsons - Julia Stiles
Noah Vosen - David Strathairn
Dr. Hirsch - Albert Finney
Pam Landy - Joan Allen