Matt Damon keeps running in The Bourne Ultimatum, the third instalment in Paul Greengrass's hugely successful spy franchise. Slicing and dicing the original novel by Robert Ludlum, he came up with a "heart-pounding, merciless thrill ride" which had critics and movie-goers on the edge of their seats.
Five featurettes track Bourne through Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid and Tangier. Much of the time cast and crew are having to stage very intricate stunts amid hoards of people, whether it be at London's perpetually busy Waterloo Station or the bustling Medina in Tangier. During the latter phase of the shoot, a stuntman is called on to leap from one building to another with a camera strapped to his chest. The featurette Rooftop Chase goes into more detail about the staging of this sequence which also requires a cable-cam zipping over the city centre. It's a logistical nightmare for Greengrass, but he takes it all in his stride, noting, "This is what Bourne is all about."
Damon doesn't perform all of his own stunts, but he does get stuck in for the fight scenes. We see him exchanging blows with co-star Joey Ansah in pre-production, but of course, it's all carefully choreographed, with Damon "learning it like a dance." The art department also get time to showcase the lovingly crafted breakaway props that get smashed to pieces during the fisticuffs. Damon has fun with that, but he especially loves the car stunts. He shows off his skills with a few 720-degree spins in the Driving School featurette.
The experts take the wheel in New York Chase, a 10 minute investigation that reveals all the backstage mechanics of this hugely ambitious crash-bang sequence. Cars are thrown around like Tonka toys and others are specially rigged with cameras to help 2nd Unit director Dan Bradley get right in amongst the action.
Nine deleted scenes are made up of quieter moments. There's more from the greasy CIA Director (played by Scott Glenn) who attempts to justify Operation Treadstone to the Supreme Court whilst his underlings (played by acting heavyweights David Strathairn and Joan Allen) decide how best to deal with Bourne. Paddy Considine also gets a little more screen-time as the investigative journalist who is constantly looking over his shoulder.
Perhaps these scenes were cut for slowing down the action too much, because as Greengrass says in his feature commentary, it was important to "set the tempo high". He talks as well about the problems of having to tell the story across several time frames and how the flashbacks needed "a strong contemporary edge". There's also a contemporary feel to the political landscape and he admits that setting the action in London, New York and Madrid was about tapping into the "fear and paranoia" which has gripped these cities in the aftermath of terrorist attacks.
Whether you're convinced by the political undertones or not, this DVD does get the cogs turning as well as the adrenalin pumping. It's a sure-fire hit.
The Bourne Ultimatum DVD is released on Monday 10th December 2007.