Bourne Hits the Box Office Once Again
August 9, 2016
It’s been nearly a decade since the release of The Bourne Ultimatum, the last film in the series to feature the title character. Now, the beloved antihero is back with Jason Bourne, an unnecessary sequel that ultimately fails to reach the dizzying heights of the previous three films.
Having discovered his true identity and revealed the secrets of the CIA’s illegal Treadstone and Blackbriar programs, Bourne (Matt Damon) has now gone into hiding, finding work as an underground fighter in Greece. That is, until he’s approached by former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), sending Jason on a quest to uncover the true reason for his recruitment into Treadstone.
Meanwhile, the CIA is still on the hunt for the government assassin turned rogue agent, with Agency Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Cyber Ops Division head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) heading up the chase. While Lee believes there is value in taking Bourne in, Dewey sees him as a dangerous threat to the agency, enlisting the deadly CIA asset known as, well, the Asset (Vincent Cassel) to take him out.
The director is also involved with tech genius Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), creator of a new social network known as Deep Dream. This subplot allows for somewhat interesting commentary on the post-Snowden age of intelligence and technology, but it’s mainly a haphazard and shoehorned-in plot strand.
The cast is uniformly terrific. Damon continues to excel as Bourne, providing subtlety to a genre not exactly known for it. Its his steely disposition that makes the character work, understanding that a showy performance would sink the film. Jones effortlessly fits into the role of Dewey, even if we’ve seen incredibly similar roles in the series’ past (Brian Cox and David Strathairn’s roles in Bournes Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum). The same can be said for Cassel. Although he’s fantastic in the role, he’s given almost nothing to distinguish himself from the assassins portrayed by Clive Owen, Karl Urban, and Edgar Ramirez in the previous films.
However, it’s Vikander that runs away with the film, delivering one of the year’s finest performances. Her emotionally unreadable Lee is one of the series’ most fascinating characters, and the only newcomer to that doesn’t inspire a constant sense of déjà vu. She particularly shines in the third act, as she’s finally given more to do than the familiar shouting of orders and sifting through computer files.
The film’s gravest issue is its routineness. Christopher Rouse and Paul Greengrass’ script seems to be more focused on checking the boxes (chases, CIA suits staring at cameras as Bourne eludes them once again, dodging in and out of train stations and alleyways, etc.) than it is on bringing anything fresh to the franchise.
Despite the film’s overly familiar essence, it remains a marvelously crafted action picture. From its opening (a glorious chase through the protest-stricken streets of Athens) to its finale (a bombastic, brilliantly structured pursuit on the Vegas strip), each sequence is handled as skillfully as possible. That’s mostly thanks to the pitch-perfect direction of Greengrass, perhaps the only working filmmaker with the understanding of how to properly utilize the shaky-cam, creating a palpable sense of immersion.
Although it may be the least inventive of the four main Bourne films, Jason Bourne is nonetheless a strong action flick that rises above the pack due mainly to the impeccable performances of its cast and the assured hand of director Paul Greengrass.