DVD Review: 'The Bourne Ultimatum'


Directed by Doug Liman, "The Bourne Identity" was a spiffy little summer action movie, carried by brisk car stunts and a confident performance by Matt Damon. Paul Greengrass took over "The Bourne Supremacy" and ratcheted up the tension to stomach-churning levels, while never sacrificing Jason Bourne's increasingly tortured soul. With Greengrass back at the helm, could "The Bourne Ultimatum" wrap the franchise up in a tidy bow?

Audiences certainly thought so. "The Bourne Ultimatum" made over $430 million worldwide and watching the film for a second time in advance of its Tuesday (Dec. 11) DVD release, it'd be hard to argue. Any list of the best cinematic action scenes of 2007 would have to include a minimum of three precisely choreographed sequences from "Ultimatum." For those who like car chases, Bourne's escape from the the New York City Port Authority parking structure has to rank high. If you prefer hand-to-hand combat, the Tangier brawl which follows a series of spectacular rooftop jumps is hard to top. And for those who like masterfully orchestrated suspense, Bourne's attempt to rendezvous with a nervous source in the middle of London's Waterloo Station might take the cake.

Credit Greengrass, cinematographer Oliver Wood and the film's assortment of stunt coordinators for finding ways to stay fresh while sticking close to the previously effective formula.

And credit an assortment of writers -- including Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi -- and Damon for keep a grasp on the "Bourne" series as a character-driven franchise. Beyond the globe-trotting escapades, it's a three-film search for answers and the truth and in "Ultimatum," with the help of the characters played by Joan Allen and new additions David Strathairn and Albert Finney, many of the puzzles in Bourne's life are solved.

There are still plenty directions the franchise could turn, but much of the talk on the DVD bonus features focuses on finality.

In an informative and thoughtful commentary Greengrass repeatedly mentions the end of the Bourne trilogy, which makes him a bit of a buzz kill. Although he isn't the most excitable of narrators, Greengrass' commentary touches on why he thinks the films resonate with audiences and his ongoing responsibility to keep raising the bar. Greengrass is also especially informative on one of my favorite parts of "Ultimatum," the repurposing and reconceptualizing of the tacked on New York City ending from "Supremacy."

Fans who purchased the first two films on DVD have a pretty good sense of what to expect from the rest of the bonuses. There are little three-to-five minute featurettes on a number of the standout sequences. While there's a certain familiarity to yet another featurette on Damon learning fight choreography, the actor's amiable charm carries that mini-doc as well as another where he expresses a childlike enthusiasm for stunt-driving. My favorite featurette was the one that showcased the through-the-window climax of the Tangiers chase, which involved strapping a Steadicam to a stuntman.

The longest featurette, at 20 minutes, is "Man on the Move: Jason Bourne," which shows the different production challenges in each of the international locations. While it's easy to imagine the complications of filming Berlin-for-Moscow in the dead of winter, seeing how the production closed down the Medina in Tangier in the middle of Ramadan was genuinely enlightening.

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