"That the spy will fabricate his information is a mere commonplace. But in the sphere of political and revolutionary action, relying partly on violence, the professional spy has every facility to fabricate the very facts themselves, and will spread the double evil of emulation in one direction, and of panic, hasty legislation, unreflecting hate, on the other. However, this is an imperfect world . . . ."
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
Here's my ultimatum: Find a better spy thriller this year or agree with me (not a natural instinct for discerning readers) that Bourne Ultimatum is one cracker-jack adventure, not exceeded by even the estimable Live Free or Die Hard. Paul Greengrass solidifies his rep as a director who can helm intelligent action and keep the audience enthralled for hours.
Jason Bourne for three years has been tracking himself because amnesia was a part of his training as a super sleuth for the CIA and he wants to know who the hell he is. On his path to self knowledge lie countless bodies, dispatched with an admirable efficiency, albeit fantastic at times. But the genius of this film is to make me a believer in that supremacy, so good is Damon at projecting smarts and physical superiority.
Part of the fun is tracking the world with him from Turin to Tangiers to Waterloo Station, a favorite spot of mine where the Thames and the Eye converge on the passages of every traveler in London. Bourne navigates despite the CIA's best attempts to stop him; he guides a reporter through the station with cell phones, a tour de force sequence of technology aiding intelligence. It's athletic, scary, and exhilarating, as if Bourne were guiding us through the labyrinth of the very movie itself.
Bourne Ultimatum touches lightly on the current challenges of government-sanctioned rendition and torture. When Damon asks an antagonist/operative to look at what they have become, assassins who don't know why they assassinate, and when assistant director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) discloses that his unit may murder at will, Congress's subpoenas should be waiting for Cheney and his covert crew. The film manages to strike a pose even while neocons and struggling Dems enjoy the ride.
You can bet the resolution is another compressed denouement with a heavy dose of the incredible. So be it. It's summer, and I had just sat through J Lo's boring El Cantante. I needed to travel light, and Jason was just the right companion.
Yes, he finds out his real name, but he'll always be Bourne to us.