When the film magazines and Channel Four get around to doing their 'Top 50 Films of the Noughties' lists, the odds of the Bourne movies not appearing look leaner than Matt Damon's jawline in the trilogy. Here, they will contend, were films that ranked with the best of the spy genre, that revolutionised set pieces and that saved James Bond's career, never mind Matt Damon's. And you'd love to think that they could be talking about more than three films, because among the many things 'The Bourne Ultimatum' does superbly is to leave you wanting more.
Picking up directly where 2004's 'The Bourne Supremacy' left off, 'The Bourne Ultimatum' begins with amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Damon) hiding out from Russian police and troubled by ever more vivid flashbacks. In his bid to find out just who he is, and what happened to him, he travels to Paris, London, Madrid, Tangier and New York - trying to avoid killers at every turn and crossing paths once again with CIA Deputy Director Pam Landy (Allen) and his former CIA contact Nicky Parsons (Stiles).
Having set a new standard for thrillers with 2004's 'The Bourne Supremacy', it was a struggle to try and figure out just how director Paul Greengrass could up the ante for the final instalment. Well, he has, and in doing so leaves you hoping against hope that himself and Damon could come back for a fourth adventure. This film will do as much for the most jaded of cinemagoers as it will for the most enthusiastic.
With its incredible fight and chase scenes (cars, motorbikes, on foot - all as brilliant as each other), 'The Bourne Ultimatum' is one of those white-knuckle treats that would cause you the same amount of palpitations whether you were watching it for the first or fifth time. Imagine the thrills of 'Ronin', 'The French Connection' and 'Bullitt' in the one script - you're getting close. What Greengrass and his team have achieved here in terms of cinematography and choreography is so special that even your old favourites lose some of their shine in comparison.
But 'The Bourne Ultimatum' isn't just all about dust-ups - it's a masterclass in suspense too. Greengrass expertly cranks up the tension from the first minute, and as he draws the strands of the plot together the question of whether Bourne is being set up becomes ever larger. One scene, where he meets an investigative journalist in London's Waterloo Station, is unbearable to watch - and it's in the first 15 minutes. You'll barely get your breath back during what follows either.
With the pace so breakneck there are some holes in the plot (don't worry, you don't have to know as much as Bourne to figure them out), and the ending is too hurried and not as special as it could have been. But it's the mark of a class film that you can put up with such misses because everything else is so on target.
'The Bourne Ultimatum' will convince you of three things: Damon and Greengrass should find at least a dozen more things to work on; every action movie director should watch it before their next film and James Bond is going to have even more sleepless nights than usual.