The Bourne Ultimatum recalls The Manchurian Candidate, though it’s the nation’s critics who seem to have been brainwashed into almost unanimously praising this efficient and occasionally exciting, yet too often banal and chilly, threequel. Following up last year’s United 93, director Paul Greengrass (who also directed 2004’s slightly superior The Bourne Supremacy) once again goes for thrills with a political bent, here employing Abu Ghraib-style imagery and pervasive intelligence agency surveillance footage in an attempt to cast amnesiac spy Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) revenge mission against the government agency that turned him into a ruthless killer as the return of America’s repressed past crimes. What it peddles is ‘70s-era paranoia and cynicism outfitted with modern trappings. But The Bourne Ultimatum (what’s the ultimatum, exactly?) barely breaks a sweat concocting its formulaic narrative, so busy is it crafting a trio of visually muddled cat-and-mouse sequences (shot with Greengrass’ typically jittery handheld camera) that nonetheless more effectively pinpoint Bourne’s psychological anxiety and confusion than Damon’s robotic, one-note performance. All blue-gray grimness, the film wants to be a serious, no-frills alternative to Hollywood’s loud, splashy superhero spectacles. Yet the seriousness it peddles is merely a counterfeit pose aimed at masking a mechanical story that – epitomized by revelations about its protagonist’s origins that fail to surprise or make any emotional impression – is largely devoid of actual drama.