UK Release Date: 27th July 2016
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Starring: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Vincent Cassel, Ato Essandoh
Synopsis: Jason Bourne resurfaces when a leak of CIA information reveals more information about his upbringing and how he became an assassin. CIA agents attempt to track him down, concerned he is behind the series of leaks.
It seems that even the Bourne franchise has forgotten that The Bourne Legacy ever happened. After years of denying they would ever come back, original star Matt Damon is back with the series and his trusted director Paul Greengrass is back at the helm, with his trademark shaky cam style along for the ride. This time around, though, Bourne has a whole new sandbox of tricks and a world filled with social media that makes it harder than ever before for Bourne to hide not only from the authorities, but from his own past.
Bourne (Damon) is relatively happy punching people in the face for money in Iceland. He is visited by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has acquired a tonne of information about covert CIA programmes, including details of how Bourne got involved with the Treadstone programme. Her intrusion has caught the eye of CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who recognise that Nicky might try to meet with Bourne. The duo attempt to capture or kill Bourne with the help of The Asset (Vincent Cassel) in order to protect a new covert initiative linked to social media entrepreneur Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed).
Jason Bourne immediately benefits from the return of Paul Greengrass to the director’s chair. He is one of the world’s best action directors and, as you’d expect given his previous work, this film is a feast of close combat, with crunching punches and real physicality to his fight scenes. This is helped by a great Matt Damon performance, with the star thrilling despite saying very few words of dialogue in a style that reminded me of Tom Hardy in last year’s barnstorming Mad Max: Fury Road. Damon has always brought an icy physicality to Bourne that was the perfect fix for the characters’ amnesiac persona and this noticeably older take on the character retains that compelling, no-nonsense style of performance.
This is a Bourne film that is aware of how much time has passed since we last saw these characters. New elements such as enhanced surveillance, hacking and social media slot seamlessly into the world as if they had never been absent from the storytelling. In fact, it’s almost too seamless in that the film should’ve made more of a zeitgeisty plot involving privacy concerns around Riz Ahmed’s social media guru, who has a slightly shady relationship with Tommy Lee Jones’ grizzled intelligence boss. This plot is ultimately made secondary to nonsense about Bourne’s parents, which extends for little creative reason the story of the character’s past that The Bourne Ultimatum wrapped up perfectly.
It’s in its new additions that Jason Bourne works, with Alicia Vikander a particularly bright spot. Vikander’s sparky performance gives the franchise a female character who feels essential and is fiercely ideological as well as utterly driven by her own ambition. Tommy Lee Jones, meanwhile, is another of the franchise’s great authority villains, proving a worthy successor to the likes of Chris Cooper and Brian Cox.
As entertaining as the new coat of paint is, the film also excels when it goes back to the Bourne basics, but bigger and better than before. The final conflict between Bourne and Vincent Cassel’s assassin is a signature scuffle for Greengrass and instantly takes its place in the franchise’s packed trove of memorable fight sequences. Meanwhile, a late car chase through the psychedelic streets of Las Vegas is one of the best committed to celluloid in recent years, producing a genuinely gripping and unpredictable slice of vehicular carnage. Bourne has always struggled for depth, but for sheer pulse-pounding action cinema, there are few franchises that can match it.
Pop or Poop?
The boys are back in town and Greengrass and Damon really bring it with Jason Bourne. The director and star pairing prove that they are made for each other once again with a consistently enthralling thriller, bolstered by an intriguing if underwritten subplot involving social media. Damon is tremendous, as is new addition Alicia Vikander, who waltzes in to steal the show.
By the time a final car chase leaves half of Vegas looking as if Friday night had got seriously out of hand, Jason Bourne has cements itself as a worthy successor to one of modern cinema’s great trilogies.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.