It has been almost 10 years since The Bourne Ultimatum saw Jason Bourne swim away into the night. That was a fitting conclusion to a wonderful trilogy. However, when the stodgy disappointment that was The Bourne Legacy failed to grow the franchise with out them, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have returned to bring back Jason Bourne. Has time been kind to our amnesiac assassin or should he have stayed in the shadows?
Following a quick recap montage, we find Jason Bourne living life off the grid, keeping a low profile as a bare knuckle fighter on the Greek/Albania border. His old ally Nicky Parsons has been snooping around in the CIA files and has uncovered a new project that is way worse than Treadstone or Black Bryer. Not only that, but she has information on Bourne’s past that will shake everything he holds dear. The CIA, in the shape of Cyber Division Chief Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and new Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) are hot on their tail and have unleashed their deadliest Asset (Vincent Cassel) to track them down. Bourne once again finds himself on the run and at the centre of another deadly conspiracy.
This is one of my favourite franchises (I recently looked back on The Bourne Identity) and while this doesn’t quite hit the heights of The Bourne Ultimatum, it is still a very good action thriller. Matt Damon is great once again as Bourne, his career defining role. This is an older, wearier Bourne, gone is the boy who just wants to know who he is, this guy knows and is determined to get as far away from his old life as he can. As always, Bourne doesn’t have much to say for himself but Damon conveys so much emotion, regret and inner turmoil with just a single look or grimace. This a role he was born to play.
The film benefits from the return of Paul Greengrass in the directors chair, he has not lost the knack of sticking his camera right in the middle of the action, drawing us in and making us feel a part of it. Whether it be a thrilling chase through a massive riot or Bourne negotiating his way through a crowded London trying to interrogate a suspect and evade the CIA, Greengrass masterfully drags us along for the ride and it is exhilarating.
The supporting cast, with the exception of Julia Stiles returning as Nicky, are all new and to be honest are a bit of a mixed bag. Tommy Lee Jones, while suitably grizzled just doesn’t capture the sleazy menace that Brian Cox so masterfully pulled off in the earlier installments and as such carries less menace. Alicia Vikander fails to convince as the ambitious, self serving Heather Lee, I spent most of her screen time trying to place just what accent she was going for. Vincent Cassel on the other hand is a welcome addition, as the new Asset, he is tied to Bourne’s past and could easily be his equal. Riz Ahmed is given little to do as a tech genius in bed with the CIA, it would have been nice to see his role fleshed out. I was also quite disappointed not to see either David Strathairn or Joan Allen return as this would have added some welcome continuity.
While the film is entertaining and it’s really great fun to watch Bourne work, it treads much of the same boards as its predecessors. The team of people in a room looking at CCTV, chasing Jason Bourne around the world, we have seen it all before and as the technology improves you have to wonder how long they can make films like this.
What really lets the film down for me is the finale, the Bourne films have been lauded for their grounding in realism, yes the situations are far fetched but the execution has been such that it felt real, stripped back and gritty. However, here the final car chase through Las Vegas reminded me more of Con Air than it did a Bourne film. It felt like they found themselves with a few extra millions left in the budget and thought, “hey, let’s just smash up a bunch of cars” It jarred for me, and would have lost me completely if it wasn’t for the final fight between Bourne and The Asset, brutal, visceral and brilliant.
All in all, by the time the Moby song kicked in over the end credits I had a smile on my face and was content with the fact that they left the door open for another film. Was this a triumphant return for Jason Bourne? Not quite, but it is a lot of fun and I think he has done just enough to keep James Bond and Ethan Hunt honest and on their toes.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.