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Security goes to the movies: The Bourne Ultimatum

Film geek and security nerd square off in a cinematic smackdown

By , Angela Gunn
August 6, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Time once again for "Security Goes to the Movies," a continuing look at Hollywood's fascination with technology and the inevitable bleeding from the eyes security folk experience when Hollywood "takes liberties" with tech, the laws of physics, and other aspects of reality as we know it. Or is that hemorrhaging inevitable? Can a movie include tech that isn't stupid? Our subject today is The Bourne Ultimatum . Our movie reviewer is associate editor Ken Gagne, writing in black; our privacy/surveillance nerd is security channel editor Angela Gunn, commenting in red.

Some things you wish you could forget. (Like Firewall.) All Jason Bourne wants to do is remember -- and your $12 movie ticket will help jog his memory. Matt Damon returns in The Bourne Ultimatum, in the series based loosely on the late Robert Ludlum's trilogy of novels.

Jason Bourne is an unwilling lethal weapon -- a man with no past seeking the people who made him the killing machine he is. (If you've seen X-Men 2, you can skip this film. WHAT? Maybe if you're dead, but even then you should at least throw it onto your Netflix queue -- if that search-for-identity plotline was resolvable by watching just one movie, Hollywood as we know it would not exist. And in case I don't make this clear later on: I. Loved. This. Movie. Not just in the sour nice-timing-with-the-FISA-wiretap-reapproval sense, either, though I was certainly thinking throughout the movie about the House's vote to extend warrantless surveillance for a while. (More on the duration of such programs anon.) If you loved last year's reinvigorated James Bond in Casino Royale -- a direct descendant of the Bourne trilogy's emphasis on reasonably plausible tech and real action rather than wacky made-up gadgetry and numbing CGI -- you're going to dig this movie.

Bourne begins his quest by interrogating a British journalist to whom a former government agent has spilled the beans on Blackbriar -- the new-generation version of Treadstone, the black-ops project that created and employed Bourne. But when a story that big breaks, you can bet Bourne isn't the only one who wants to know the reporter's source. Unfortunately for Bourne, the next head on Blackbriar's chopping block is his. Can he discover his secret identity before it's too late?

What my colleague doesn't mention here is the chewy tech goodness in play from the drop -- again, working in the realm of the real for maximum geek enjoyment. The Echelon program's international wiretap and phrase extraction capabilities are a major plot point (and, yes, they call it Echelon -- I thought of Duncan Campbell's years of work at uncovering that program, even as I wondered if the reporter played by Paddy Considine is meant to be a Campbell nod).

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