Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Julia Styles
Ten years after blowing the lid off of Blackbriar, a CIA wetwork operation, Jason Bourne is far from the puzzlebox world of international skullduggery, earning a living destroying dudes in illegal prizefights because that’s what retired killing machines do (cf. Rambo III). His old CIA colleague, Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) is now working with an Assange-esque hacktivist to expose even more high level CIA wrongdoing, and reaches out to our hero for help. Naturally, the CIA, in the form of grizzled old director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and ambitious young analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), get wind of this and spring into action. Lee thinks she can bring Bourne in, but Dewey, a take no chances kind of guy, would rather dispatch a ruthless, nameless “Asset” (Vincent Cassel) to put our boy in the dirt for good.
It all sounds very complicated – and there’s a weirdly disconnected parallel plot involving Dewey trying to convince a social media entrepreneur (Riz Ahmed) to let the Company in through the backdoor on his new app, but Jason Bourne is a fairly straight forward film that follows Damon’s reluctant badass from Greece to Berlin to Las Vegas, disassembling rank and file footsoldiers, thinking impressively fast in stressful situations,and occasionally ruffling the feathers of amoral, suit wearing spymasters with a pointed “I know you know I know”.
It’s fun, but it’s also wearing out at the seams a bit. We’re five films into this thing now (remember The Bourne Legacy?) and although the stakes in the series have always low and personal compared to, say, the Bond series*, this feels like the first time they’ve had to pull something out of their ass to justify Bourne tooling up and punching on once more.
Spoiler warning: it’s his dad.
Yes, having recovered all his memories now, Bourne is chasing down secrets he was not previously privy to, namely whether the death of his father, the crucial life event that sent him into the shadow world, might not have been a bit of theatre for his benefit (if you think there’s surprise here, you need to work on your understanding of genre convention). They double down on this in a way that really shrinks the filmic universe, leaving us with a scenario that feels weirdly petty and contrived.
The action works a treat, though, and Greengrass is certainly the shaky-cam director that even haters of shaky-cam must admit knows exactly what he’s doing. There’s a chase through a riot in Greece that is the equal – and maybe the better – of anything that has gone before in these movies, and the climactic chase/battle in Vegas is hugely impressive, even if it does cross over into the more garish blockbuster territory that prior Bournes have dutifully ignored.
At the end of the day, the Bourne films scratch a certain itch, and if this latest is not the best of the bunch – it’s certainly not as good as Supremacy or Ultimatum – it still delivers the gritty thrills that fans expect. Still, if they’re going to keep on keeping on with these things, it’s to be hoped they spend just a little more effort on motivation next time around.
*The wheels came off the Bond movies the second some idiot decided it all needed to be personal. Search your feelings; you know it to be true.