I am writing this review a few days after seeing Jason Bourne on the big screen, and quite honestly I’m finding it hard to recall the specifics – all that sticks in my mind are the audacious action set-pieces. This does not bode well for writing a review, obviously, but it is telling of the quality of the fifth installment in the Bourne series; marking the return of Matt Damon as the titular Jason Bourne.
First of all – poor Jeremy Renner! As soon as he thinks he’s got himself a franchise, it gets torn away in front of his very eyes. He had the promise of being a frontbencher in the Avengers, only to be relegated to a second tier hero; whilst his Mission Impossible dream hasn’t yet been relinquished from the never-dead Tom Cruise. The Bourne Legacy, the fourth film in the franchise starring Renner, moved away from the Matt Damon-Bourne story line and introduced other CIA controlled government agents, but crucially failed in its execution.
“It doesn’t really feel like a new premise or chapter”
So, 14 years after the first installment, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return; reuniting the director of the second and third Bourne films (the better ones) with the ‘real Bourne’ to rekindle their ‘special’ actor-director relationship. The beginning of the film shows the veteran direction, as the series settles back into Greengrass’ confident and comfortable style. Julia Stiles’ series regular, Nicky Parsons, hacks into the CIA mainframe remotely from Iceland with what looks like an old 48k computer, instantly reintroducing the realism of the series that Legacy missed. From this location, she recovers some files about Jason Bourne and Treadstone (the government programme which he was part of) which he, and the audience do not know, thus setting off the events of the film. However, this doesn’t seem too fresh, as essentially all the films were Bourne vs CIA, with him trying to recover information about himself. It doesn’t really feel like a new premise or chapter, but a rehash of previous set ups.
“a chain of singular events rather than a cohesive narrative”
The film then moves locations, as expected, involving Bourne in Greece, where he meets Nicky Parsons to exchange information. Greengrass cleverly places this sequence in the midst of a violent anti-government protest that we are akin to seeing all over the world, pushing the realism to its furthest bounds to create what feels like an important and thrilling ‘must-be-seen-on-the-big-screen’ sequence. Chasing them down is ‘The Asset’ playing by Vincent Cassel, who seemingly has history with Jason Bourne. The film then moves from set-piece to set-piece, location to location, setting up more chases and more fights. It’s a chain of singular events rather than a cohesive narrative, revealing the thinness of the actual plot. It’s a good job that these set-pieces are so well executed, particularly the later chase scene in Las Vegas, otherwise the film would fall flat on its face.
“jason bourne is a perfectly serviceable action flick”
Elsewhere, Tommy Lee Jones puts in a very Tommy Lee Jones angry-faced-man performance as Robert Dewey the head of the CIA, whilst Riz Ahmed’s social media mogul, Aaron Kalloor, is similarly fairly two-dimensional. Alicia Vikander’s aspiring CIA agent Heather Lee is the film’s saving grace of the supporting cast, not knowing where her allegiances lie, and keeping the audience guessing until the very end.
If you accept that this, as one critic put it, is ‘supplementary Bourne’, then Jason Bourne is a perfectly serviceable action flick, and a decent night out at the cinema. However, it doesn’t reach the pulsating highs of the first three films, lacking the story of Identity, and the pulsating rhythm of both Supremacy and Ultimatum. However, as is the nature of the Hollywood machine, we may not have seen the last of Jason Bourne.