Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed
Written by: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse and (based on the characters created) Robert Ludlum
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 27th July 2016
Bourne is back! Not the lacklustre replacement on from The Bourne Legacy but the genuine article. Matt Damon returns to the role he made famous back in 2002, along with director Paul Greengrass, who directed Supremacy and Ultimatum and who changed the face of, not only espionage films, but the action genre. Well after an absence of 9 years, the pair return to familiar grounds, which is where this new sequel’s problems lie.
Managing to crack a CIA database, former analysis Nicky Parsons uncovers information about Jason Bourne’s father. Tracking him down to Turkey, Bourne has been living in hiding, taking on bare-knuckle fights to make some money. Having Parsons find him soon has the CIA, under new director Robert Dewey and his assistant, Heather Lee, wanting to stop Parsons but then finding that Bourne isn’t going to give up his discovery of what really happened to him.
Let me say this first and foremost: it is great to have Damon and Greengrass back. This, like their previous films, is slick, sharp and exciting with some really breath-taking set pieces. Where the problem lies is in the fact that these film did change how other action films are made. They set the bar high for others to follow. Bond, as we know, saw what Bourne was doing and upped their game. So having a new Bourne, you want them to move the bar higher. Alas, they don’t and in fact, mainly in the plot department, it’s like watching a re-run of what has been before.
Bourne is an interesting character. A CIA-created killing machine that they dumped when things got out of hand and erased his memory. Ever since then, he’s been trying to find the truth about himself and his past. Now we are into the fourth movie of the series and he is still looking for that truth, so we are covering old ground. He tries to hide from the CIA while at the same time hunting them down. There’s twists and turns all over the place within the CIA (who exactly are the good guys) while interspersed are some pretty impressive stunt sequences.
This is all well and good and I am not criticizing the set pieces. I just expected more from the plot. Something different, something unique. Maybe taking the character into new territory. He’s been away for 9 years and things have changed since then. Maybe these changes could be explored more. Greengrass, who also co-wrote the script, does throw in some nods the changing world: austerity in Greece, social media, and the privacy difficulties. Yet the rest seems overly familiar and, frankly a little stale.
Back to the set pieces and as usual, they are spectacular. A chase through riots in Greece as only Paul Greengrass can deliver. The chaos of hundreds of angry Greeks battling against the police and having Bourne being chased by the CIA, a hired assassin, and the authorities does leave you breathless. The finale, a brutal car chase through the streets of Las Vegas, is the most heart-stopping piece of cinema in ages and the most destructive sequence since the Blues Brothers.
Damon, very short on dialogue, is Bourne. You feel pleased to have him back and you still believe that, although he looks so mild-mannered, he can outfox even the smartest CIA agent and you certainly can believe he can kill with any household item. New members of the cast, Tommy Lee Jones, and Alicia Vikander bring a touch of class to the film, while Vincent Cassel is perfect as Asset, the assassin hungry for Bourne.
As with the other films, this is pure escapism and hugely entertaining. I just wish they had followed a different path and given Jason Bourne a new edge, taking the franchise to new areas and once again changing the face of a genre that, on occasions, needs a good kick up the backside. Bourne should have been the one to do it.
As a side note: although this is classified as 12A, this is definitely the top end of 12 as some of the scenes are incredibly brutal.