The third and final installment in Robert Ludlum's tale of amnesiac ex-spy Jason Bourne is a kinetic thriller that never sacrifices physical logic for the sake of a giant fireball or mano a mano with a fighter plane. Directed by THE BOURNE SUPREMACY's (2004) Paul Greengrass, it's the rare action picture whose adrenaline-driven thrills neither overshadow the characters nor degenerate into cartoonish preposterousness.
As in the first two installments, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a man in search of his past. Since he was fished out of the Mediterranean near death and with no memory of his identity or history, he's discovered a great deal about himself, none of it good. Bourne now knows he was a trained assassin working for a black-ops program called Treadstone, a top-secret collaboration between the CIA and the NSA. He knows that there's a world of blood on his hands, and he's both settled old scores and tried to make reparations for some of the things he's done. A series of newspaper articles by London journalist Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) provide the next clue to how Bourne became the man he was: Ross clearly has a source deep within the intelligence community who knows more about Bourne than he knows about himself. Bourne contacts Ross, whom he knows must have also attracted the shadow army's attention, and arranges a meeting at Waterloo Station that becomes the film's first action set piece, a tour de force of cat-and-mouse maneuvering as Bourne draws on years of tradecraft to stymie the lethal spymasters whose electronic eyes are everywhere. The scraps of information Bourne gets from Ross lead him to an earlier program called Blackbriar and stops in Turin — where he reconnects with sympathetic CIA agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) — Tangier and then New York, where it all began.
Greengrass' strength as an action director is that despite jittery camerawork and rapid editing, he establishes where everyone is in relation to everyone and everything else, and keeps the action up close and personal; watching Bourne and the increasingly frightened Ross dodge surveillance cameras and elude agents using the commuter crowds and the train station's own cluttered architecture of newsstands, cafes, billboards and novelty shops is more thrilling than a CGI-enhanced car chase, and Bourne's brutal showdown with a Moroccan assassin in a cramped bathroom has an immediate impact that's missing from the gymnastic fight scenes that have become the Hollywood norm. The topnotch cast includes Scott Glenn and David Strathairn as duplicitous CIA agents Ezra Kramer and Noah Vosen, Joan Allen as agent Pamela Landy, who's been hunting Bourne since the last film and has begun to believe that he may not be the mad dog her superiors think he is, and Albert Finney as monster-maker Dr. Hirsch, who casts a long shadow over project Blackbriar.
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