A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bourne Ultimatum features wall-to-wall action, much of it violent, causing repeated, bloody injuries to Bourne. The film includes car chases and crashes, explosions, fights, falls from great heights, smashes through windows, and murders (hand-to-hand, by gunfire), as well as images of dead bodies. The plot involves high tech surveillance and a dastardly, secret CIA program, and the hero comes to distrust his (U.S.) government (that said, Senate hearings at film's end lead to arrests of "rogue agents"). Language includes "s--t," "damn," and "hell."
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What's the story?
In THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM -- the very smart third film in the Bourne series -- super-spy-assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finally gets some answers. In a plot that resembles Robocop meets Manchurian Candidate, Bourne seeks not only his identity, but also the individuals responsible for both his loss of memory and extraordinary killing skills. His search leads him from Torino to Paris, London to Tangier, and then on to Manhattan, each city yielding a piece of Bourne's puzzle. His hunters this time include the CIA's Deputy Director Vosen (David Strathairn) and others behind the scenes, who use all manner of astounding surveillance technology as well as "assets," or killers trained like Bourne. No longer a brutal instrument of the government, eliminating "targets" for unknown reasons, Bourne now becomes a moral center, a remarkably resilient one at that. Again and again, he rises from crashes and fights, like the Terminator, ever in motion, resolved to find his secret-agency "maker."
Is it any good?
The film's action is stunning (fast, visceral, stylized), and the consequences deadly. When he learns that a London Guardian reporter, Ross (Paddy Considine), has stumbled onto Blackbriar, Bourne makes contact, then directs his every step by cell phone, negotiating a crowded Waterloo Station and avoiding a CIA sniper. Given his deep sense of loss concerning Marie (killed in the last film), it's not surprising that Bourne shares a distrust of the CIA with two women, specialist Pam Landy (Joan Allen) and an agent, Nicky (Julia Stiles), who both helped to track Bourne in the previous films and now question Vosen's extreme measures. Nicky's understanding of Bourne may be the most poignant, as she watches him resolve a brilliantly edited chase scene in Tangier with an amazing fight against yet another "asset."
Bourne's quest leads him to ugly truths, about himself and the behavior-modifying experiment that created him. As his memory returns, he has flashbacks of his training, including torture. The film goes on to show that Bourne once believed he was doing the right thing, that he would "save American lives" by giving himself "to the program." When he finally finds himself, he sees he must determine his own motivations, not believe in someone else's.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Bourne's sense of betrayal: How does he come to see himself as a tool, created and used by the CIA, and how does his moral sense lead him to challenge his "employers"?
Why might it be significant that Bourne is helped by the two women agents, who both question their boss' efforts to cover up the secret program?
How does Bourne's amnesia make him different from most other, very self-secure action heroes?
Does the violence in The Bourne Ultimatum ever feel over the top? Is it exciting or gruesome? Which do you think it's intended to be? Why?