A decade after his disappearance, Jason Bourne is brought out of the shadows by fellow operative on the run Nicky Parsons, now a hacker. With the CIA about to launch a global surveillance plan that goes against the very basics of freedom, and new and important memories regarding his father surfacing, Bourne goes back on the warpath to finally find the answers he’s been searching for.
“We have ridden that horse as far as we can. I think in terms of another one, the story of this guy’s search for his identity is over.” So said Matt Damon in August 2007 regarding a fourth Bourne movie. Writer/director Paul Greengrass echoed similar sentiments, and with each saying they’d never make another Bourne movie without each other anyway, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) seemed like the end of the story. Then we got The Bourne Legacy (2012), a half-assed attempt to kickstart the franchise that didn’t feature Matt Damon or any character called Bourne.
Yet now both Damon and Greengrass are back, explaining away their return on the fact that the world and events have moved on sufficiently to allow another chapter in the life of Jason Bourne to be told. Cynicism could suggest that both director and star needed a bona fide, blockbuster hit to maintain their standing in Tinseltown but even the most jaded cinemagoer was looking forward to new Bourne, such is the esteem in which the original trilogy is held.
The plot, such as it is, is pretty thin. Nicky Parsons, with whom Jason teamed-up in ‘Ultimatum, is now a hacker and has managed to download all Black Op files relating to Treadstone, Blackbriar and new initiative Ironclad from the CIA server. Intending to leak these to the press, she comes across information relating to Jason Bourne’s father and resolves to find him. What follows is exactly what you’d expect, with copious fights and crunching car chases. What’s added are new memories, specifically regarding Daddy, that surface in Bourne’s jumbled head and it’s these parts that are the least satisfying.
Having your protagonist suffer from amnesia is a godsend for a screenwriter. Need a new plot, a new character or some additional history for the next instalment? Simply have your hero suddenly remember what you want and hey presto, you’re off and running. It’s hard not to feel a little cheated when Bourne suddenly recalls great swathes of backstory in the form of grainy images about his Dad and his involvement in ‘The Program’ at the CIA. Thankfully, it’s not dwelled on that much before a superb motorbike/car chase takes place in the middle of violent protests in downtown Athens. Tommy Lee Jones’ CIA Director Robert Dewey is on to both Parson and Bourne and has sent his asset – referred to only as Asset throughout the film – to take them out. It’s a thrilling and adrenalin-inducing reinsertion into the world of Bourne and entirely realistic; any use of CGI is completely unnoticeable, as all good CGI should be.
As Bourne resolves to get to the bottom of everything once and for all (and where have we heard that before?), the action takes us around the globe, through London before ending up in the states and a final showdown with big boss Dewey.
Whether or not any of this sounds remarkably familiar will depend on how recently you’ve seen, and familiar you are, with the ‘original’ Bourne Trilogy, and The Bourne Ultimatum in particular. If you last saw it in 2007 and have been fed an almost constant diet of Marvel MCU films and their like since, this will be a breath of fresh air and viscerally exciting. But if you have reacquainted yourself with Robert Ludlum’s creation recently, a great deal of Jason Bourne will feel a bit like a remake.
The relentless pursuit of Bourne by a dangerous and committed adversary is taken from The Bourne Supremacy (2004); Jason takes the exact same train to London and sits in the exact same seat as he did in ‘Ultimatum; the journey to the States for a final confrontation is the same and the gunplay and hand to hand combat is so reminiscent of the earlier entries that they are pretty much interchangeable. And whilst this is no bad things, and likely a shot in the arm for the jaded viewer, there is also nothing new whatsoever begging the question, why make a new Bourne at all?
To be fair, it’s not something you’ll be pondering all that much for there is much to enjoy here. A subplot about the CIA getting into bed with a proto-Facebook (oddly called Deep Dream) feels like a bit of a hat tip to modern life, but Tommy Lee Jones does what he does best and make a world-changing, freedom-ignoring monster seem world-weary. Alicia Vikander (who, despite being an Oscar winner, still comes across as a budget Jennifer Lawrence) also makes a good play as the good guy who may not be all she seems.
Much has already been talked about the finale, set surprisingly and thrillingly in Las Vegas. Think of Bourne and Vegas is the last place you’d expect to find him so having the mother of all car chases across the strip gives a flashy neon injection into proceedings. And it’s the action sequences that will stay with you, and likely make you want to watch this again. Greengrass has been much imitated, never bettered and the frenetic, kinetic camerawork and editing (courtesy of script co-writer Christopher Rouse) are just the right side of madness.
Will there be more Bournes? Universal would obviously like there to be and they have plans for another attempt at a BCU (that’d be Bourne Cinematic Universe). As for Greengrass and Damon, neither has said no so quickly again this time.