Saw it with Amy last night at a midnight showing. It was worth staying up for -- the first two Bourne movies were better than average spy fare, better than any but a couple of the Bonds, for example. (Casino Royale and From Russia With Love) --
Ultimatum may be the best serious action movie I've ever seen. (Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best action movie ever, but it's a featherweight piece with no serious intent behind it. Nothing wrong with that.)
Been an interesting trend in recent years -- the serious, no-apology blockbuster sequel. For most of Hollywood's existence sequels existed to suck the remaining dollars out of a franchise, and serious artists looked down on them. The people who made sequels didn't treat them with respect, and the results showed --
There've always been exceptions, but they're so few they stand out: what would have been Superman II, had Richard Donner been permitted to finish it. (See the Donner cut of Superman II, if you haven't -- it's much better than the Lester version.) The Empire Strikes Back. Aliens. Batman Returns. T2. And despite my distaste for the Roger Moore era, the entire Bond series was always treated with real seriousness by the people making it, though with varying results. And that's been about it -- I could easily name dozens (hundreds, maybe) of sequels that were much worse than the movies they referenced. Rambo might be the best example of a series that started out very promisingly, and degenerated into Something Awful with the first few seconds of the first sequel ... but there are dozens of examples.
But in the last several years there've been a lot of first-rate sequels -- movies no one had to apologize for. X-Men II is better than X-Men. Spiderman 2 is better than Spiderman. Casino Royale is superb.
But Ultimatum is the Godfather II of the action movie world, the movie that stands atop first rate work -- and then gets better. It's up there with Die Hard for sheer kinetic energy. There's a hand to hand combat scene midway through the movie that might be the best single fight I've ever seen in a movie. It reminded me, and this is high praise, of the fight in "From Russia With Love" -- two strong men trying to kill each other with their bare hands. Very few movie fights ever have any emotional impact past the visceral -- but this does. Ultimatum is The Passion of the Bourne, and the violence has an impact, on Bourne, on us watching, that far exceeds what most action movies ask of their audiences. And Bourne's quest for the truth, which in a second rate work would be a Maguffin with no impact, here has a payoff that has real moral weight.
I keep coming back to Casino Royale. I'm a big Bond fan, and Casino Royale was a great Bond movie. But it wasn't a great movie -- and Ultimatum is. Can't wait to go see it again.