When The Bourne Identity first hit theaters in 2002, it’s kinetic style, exotic shooting locations and grounded-in-reality approach to the spy game had critics calling for the head of James Bond. Jason Bourne was on the scene. A new action hero for a new generation.

While 2006’s Casino Royale proved there was still some life left in the nearly 50 year-old franchise, it was clear the producers of the Bond films could sense the younger generation nipping at it’s heels.

Released in theaters this summer, the capstone to the Bourne trilogy made it’s way to DVD on December 11. The Bourne Ultimatum sold 5.4 million copies it’s first six days of release, sending a clear message that Bond isn’t out of the woods yet.

Director Paul Greengrass returns to the Bourne franchise abandoning the jerky hand held shooting style and quick edits that made The Bourne Supremacy hard to follow. This time out, Greengrass’s direction is more controlled and more efficient – just like Jason Bourne himself.

In the last chapter, we catch up with Bourne literally minutes after the last film ended. Wounded and on the run, he’s not in hiding for long after a London journalist publishes a story about him with direct references to his past. As Bourne tries to uncover his source, so are the political powers hunting him trying to do the same. When their paths cross, it’s pretty much a trans-continental chase sequence from there on out.

That description is somewhat pat and not reflective of the true spirit of the film. There are moments of quiet tension in between action sequences. There are ambiguous implications when Bourne is reunited with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) in Madrid. Meanwhile, on the home front, there is seething animosity between CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) and Pam Landy (Joan Allen) about the best tactics to employ in order to neutralize Bourne as a threat to the CIA. Landy is ready to talk. Vosen is willing to kill whomever he has to in order to get to Bourne – even other agents.

“You start down this path, where does it end?” asks Landy

“It ends when we’ve won,” Vosen states emphatically – in the most clear allegory to certain wartime policies you’re likely to see in a summer action movie.

A hallmark of the series, the performances are all top notch from a wide variety of talents. On location shooting in Turin, London and Tangier give Jason Bourne a real-life playground to operate in. Practical effects in the action sequences sell everything on screen.

And the action sequences don’t fail to disappoint. A series of bait-and-switch routines as Bourne tries to lead his journalist out of the congested Waterloo train station is as tense and engaging as one could hope for. A rooftop chase sequence in Tangier is exhausting and exhilarating all at once. And the final car chase and shoot out in New York City concludes with gritty force. All of these sequences are expertly handled and leave you on the edge of your seat.

Extras on the DVD feel a little on the light side, but all of them are substantial and add appropriate shading to the film. Behind-the-scenes filming in each of the cities they filmed in reveals the logistical nightmares of capturing things on location. A featurette on the explosive, close quarters bathroom fight sequence demonstrates the intense preparation production goes through to deliver an authentic look and feel to hand to hand combat.

All in all, a great addition to your DVD collection and a must-have for action fans.

9 out of 10

↓ Transcript
Theater Hopper reviews The Bourne Ultimatum on DVD.