Confused, mistrustful and trying to keep a lid on the knee-jerk violence to which he is predisposed, Jason Bourne is a troubled secret agent for troubled times. This third part of the most satisfying action franchise of the decade finds Bourne (Matt Damon) still on the run, gradually remembering how US security forces reshaped him as a super-assassin while trying to avoid their continued efforts to neutralise him. Drawn into the open by a UK newspaper exposé, he’s tacitly aided by CIA insiders Pamela Landy (Joan Allen, looking stern in turtle-necks) and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) while David Strathairn and Albert Finney take on ruthless bastard duties.
Paul Greengrass, director of ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ and ‘United 93’, remains ahead of the field in delivering gristly, handheld, relatively credible action reliant on whatever’s to hand rather than hi-tech gadgetry. (If you thought Bourne was bad-ass with a magazine, just see what he can do with a hardback…) The plot roves across the globe but the standout set piece takes place in our own Waterloo Station, making an exhilarating rat-run of a packed concourse that will have you peering uneasily at CCTV cameras and advertising hoardings on your next commute.
While the crunchy fights and unflagging pace ensure this delivers as genre spectacle – a car chase deservedly got a round of applause at the screening I attended – the muddy ethics also make for a pleasing contrast with standard-issue wham-bammery. The CIA’s instant, lethal access to any spot on the globe and tactics like rendition and ‘experimental interrogation’ provoke anxiety here, not pride, and Bourne’s own killings are followed not by a quip but a flush of shame.