“THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM” marked author Robert Ludlum’s last novel about the amnesiac CIA agent/assasin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). Considering that the first two movies – “THE BOURNE IDENTITY” (2002) and “THE BOURNE SUPREMACY” (2004) – barely resembled the novels from which they were adapted. One can honestly say the same about “ULTIMATUM”. Most diehard fans would obviously be upset over these loose adaptations. But since I am not a big fan of the Ludlum novels, it does not really bother me. But this latest movie does continue the saga that began in the first movie. And in one of the most surprising ways.

Before I saw the movie, I had heard rumors that it began at least six months after the events of “SUPREMACY”. The rumor turned out to be slightly false for the majority of the movie ended up being set six weeks later. In fact, the first scene began in Moscow, where Bourne had apologized to Irena Neski for murdering her parents and killed Marie’s murderer Kirill after a high speed chase; until the story jumped another six weeks. But screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns managed to plant a surprise within three-quarters into the film that has strong connections to “SUPREMACY”‘s final scene.

As for the rest of the movie, like its predecessors, it turned out to be high-octane action thriller and mystery. Following his arrival in Paris, Bourne reads an article that revealed his past – including his relationship with Marie – and his connections to Treadstone. The article also featured exposure of a new CIA assassination program called “Blackbriar”. Realizing that the reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) of THE GUARDIAN might have a source within the CIA, he heads for London and attempts to help the reporter evade capture and possible death at the hands of a Blackbriar assassin named Paz (Edgar Ramirez) . Bourne fails to save his life and he spends the rest of the film tracking down Ross’ source – a CIA section chief named Neal Daniels (Colin Stinton). He also has to deal with a paronoid CIA official named Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), who wants Daniels dead for treason. Vosen also wants Bourne dead, because of the latter’s supresssed knowledge of the Treadstone program and the New York training headquarters where both the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs began. Along way, Bourne acquires the help of former Treadstone handler, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) and CIA Deputy Director, Pamela Landy (Joan Allen). I found two sequences well-written and very exciting:

*Bourne’s attempts to keep Ross alive in London.

*Bourne and Nicky’s adventures in Tangiers, while dealing with Blackbriar assasin Desh (Joey Ansah).

*Bourne’s memories of his other self’s [David Webb] decision to become a Treadstone assassin.

Most of “ULTIMATUM”‘s screenplay is excellent. And I have to take my hat off to Gilroy and Burns for creating an exciting script. But . . . I have to point out one flaw. Namely the finale. The final scenes feature fugitive Nicky Parsons learning about the exposure of the Blackbriar and Treadstone assasin programs on the news . . . and the arrests of Vosen and others involved in the two programs – CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) and psychologist Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney). Frankly, I found this conclusion unrealistic. Yes, one can consider it a crowd pleaser, but there is no way on earth the CIA would allow its dirty secrets (at least recent ones) to be aired any national news program. And I doubt that Landy would have sent Vosen’s secret files to the media – not if she wants to maintain her career. Chances are the CIA would have supressed news of the programs and killed Vosen and Hirsch, and Kramer out to pasture where he can die under mysterious circumstaces.

As for the acting – well it was top notch as usual. In what promises to be his last film, Damon makes the role Jason Bourne [David Webb] as his own. Julia Stiles continued to prove, as she had done in “SUPREMACY” that she and Damon have great screen chemistry . . . despite the discomfort and ackwardness between the two characters. This ackwardness came about Bourne’s revelation of his distaste of his role as an assasin and a scene in which Nicky changes her appearance, dredging up memories of Marie doing the same in the first film. Joan Allen was marvelous. In fact, I believe that her performance in this movie was an improvement over the second film. And both David Strathairn and Albert Finney proved to be remarkably creepy and unpleasant. Although I believe that Strathairn was as good as Brian Cox (as Ward Abbott), I found him to be an improvement over the slightly over-the-top Chris Cooper (as Conklin).

Paul Greengrass’ direction was just as top notch as Kilroy and Burns’ screenplay. But as with the movie’s script, I have a complaint. I had barely tolerated Greengrass’ handheld photography in “SUPREMACY”. In “ULTIMATUM”, my toleration nearly went down with the Titanic. I almost had a headache dealing with the shaky camera work. My other complaint deals with this movie’s rendention of Moby’s song, “Extreme Ways”. Quite frankly, I hated it. I hated the changes made to the song’s tempo and vocals. Despite all of this, “ULTIMATUM” proved to be just as exciting as the first two movies. And together, Damon, Greengrass, Kilroy and Universal Pictures have themselves a first-rate trilogy and franchise.