Director: Paul Greengrass Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles Run Time: 123 minutes
Bourne is back. With Matt Damon returning to the franchise after 2012’s sub-par reboot The Bourne Legacy, this latest installment sticks to the tried and true formula of the genre it helped redefine over a decade ago. That’s not to say Jason Bourne is a disappointment. The film manages to keeps an exciting and relentless pace throughout, it just never really reaches new heights. To be honest it doesn’t even feel like it aimed to do so. We all know what to expect from a Bourne film at this stage, and that’s exactly what it delivers. No more, no less.
The story serves partly to provide closure to the past films, and partly as a launching point for the inevitable sequel. As one would expect after his apparent death/disappearance at the end of the Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne is living off the grid. Having become somewhat of a recluse, he now spends his days engaging in underground fighting tournaments as a means of venting his anger. It is here that Julia Stiles’ character Nicky somehow re-establishes contact with him; she’s been working with a Wikileaks type organisation since last we saw her, hacking the CIA and stealing highly classified Black Ops documents. Naturally these documents contain yet more detailed information about Bourne’s mysterious past, his father, and those responsible for making him the man he is today. With the CIA hot on her heels Nicky arranges a meet with Bourne to hand over the encrypted files. Their meeting in the midst of a large scale riot on the streets of Greece is where the film really kicks into gear.
The action on display is effective and efficient. There’s plenty of it – no one could accuse the film of being boring – but other than a couple of impressive car chase sequences that bookend the film, none of it ever quite manages to top the intensity of its predecessors. The close-quarters hand to hand combat, a defining feature of the original films, is surprisingly unremarkable here. Bourne’s one punch knock-out of an imposing opponent at the start of the film has perhaps the biggest impact. It perfectly keys us in to his frame of mind, and possibly that of director Paul Greengrass as well… Perhaps the hand-held action style Greengrass established in The Bourne Identity has just been done to death at this stage, but he seems to have little interest in staging any kind of elaborate or memorable fight scenes this time around.
In terms of the performances, Matt Damon brings a sense of weary world-worn anger, and quiet intensity, which works particularly well. His character is older now and we feel it. Franchise newcomer Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina) does great work as CIA agent Heather Lee, playing multiple sides; we’re never quite sure where her allegiances lie. A strange attempt at an American accent aside, her young tech-savvy character is a welcome addition to the franchise. Julia Styles appears to be phoning in her lines in an all too brief appearance. Tommy Lee Jones does what Tommy Lee Jones does best of course, playing a typically no-nonsense authoritarian type, with Vincent Cassel doing fine as his ruthless henchman, hell-bent on taking Bourne down.
A sub-plot, involving issues of cyber security and government surveillance in the social media age, is inserted in an attempt to keep matters current. Despite taking up a significant amount of screen time however it amounts to little more than an underdeveloped tangent that oddly never connects with Bourne’s plot in any meaningful way. As for the mystery concerning Bourne’s father – it’s somewhat cliched, but executed well enough that it works as a means to cap off the story thus far.
Jason Bourne is a solid, if unremarkable installment in this popular franchise. One that remains a cut above average, and breathes just enough life back in to the character to warrant future sequels.