Moscow, six weeks ago and rogue agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is making good his escape through a railway yard with the Russian police in hot pursuit. He manages to make it to a nearby chemist and find medication, but is interrupted by two cops: one he knocks out, the other he stands pointing his pistol at... Now, the C.I.A. are concerned about Bourne's whereabouts and realise he is still out there and a potential threat - no, not potential, an active threat. He will not rest until he has uncovered the corruption in the agency's ranks; and his true identity with it.
It's no exaggeration to say that the Jason Bourne films certainly gave action movies a hefty kick with their intelligent intrigue and, more significantly, action sequences that were notable for their fast-cutting, kinetic but controlled style. Many observed that Bourne was out-Bond-ing James Bond, and when Casino Royale was released it was hard not to admit their influence on the Daniel Craig revival of 007. A lot of this was down to the choice of director for the instalments that came after Doug Liman's The Bourne Identity, and that man in question was Paul Greengrass.
His The Bourne Supremacy went like a rocket, and this third part in the successful series was no exception. But with that confidence in its storytelling came an unmistakable formula that had Bourne tracking, fighting and escaping, in that order, over and over again from start to finish with very little variation in the plot. You could say this indicated an undeniable purity of style, and there were emotional aspects too, chiefly the lost love of Franka Potente's Maria of the first two films (she appears in flashback here), but rather than flesh out the inner life of the hero they seemed more like the kind of cliché the series was claiming to be rejecting.
Still, thoughts like those were for after the movie was over, you didn't have much time to ponder the deficiencies when it was all so fast moving. And it was fun to see Bourne run rings around the C.I.A., whose presence here points to a pleasingly paranoid worldview that has the spies everywhere thanks to incredibly accurate surveillance. If you're the type of person who feels uncomfortable when you notice a security camera when you're out and about then this is the ideal film to fuel those persecution worries. The head baddie is C.I.A. man Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) but in a capitulative move he has a nice counterpart too, Pam Landy (Joan Allen).
So Bourne has friends as well as enemies in important places, but there will be casualties, as he discovers when he tracks down a British newspaper journalist (Paddy Considine) who has written an article on him and apparently knows about the mysterious Blackbriar project that Bourne is somehow connected to. Judging by all those flashbacks, you'll be wondering when Albert Finney will actually show up to explain the scheming, and he does appear in time, but before we get there our hero must accept the assistance of series regular Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who he bumps into while looking for someone else. Those action setpieces are highlights, including a race for Nicky's life as she is chased through Tangiers and a New York City car chase (who would be a cop in a Bourne movie? They always get a raw deal). But as ever with these films, there's a businesslike air which prevents them from being utterly captivating, slickly professional as they are. Music by John Powell.