Not one of Paul Greengrass’ most coherent thrillers, but this belated reunion with Matt Damon remains compelling and makes a semi-solid case for continuing sequels.
Dir. Paul Greengrass
2016 | USA | Action/Thriller | 123 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed
Plot: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.
Distributor: United International Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Mainstream
(Reviewed in theatres – first published 2 Aug 2016)
Many critics have found Jason Bourne dated and well-short of the narrative heft and genuine thrills of the ‘Bourne’ trilogy. That is true to a certain extent, but its flaws as a thriller seem to have been magnified by arguments that the film is derivative, and thus, boring.
I agree that it has lost that bit of spark storytelling-wise—this is the least coherent of the franchise, including the Jeremy Renner side outing, The Bourne Legacy (2012), with a lot of back story forced into it, but you cannot deny that Paul Greengrass (the director behind the superb The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)) continues to show his astute craftsmanship in the genre.
Bourne (Matt Damon) comes out of hiding when a close confidant tips him off about the dark secret behind the controversial ‘Treadstone’ black operations programme that made him into what he is today—a trained assassin with a shady identity.
“Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.”
With further connections to his past being revealed, and struggling to cope psychologically as a ‘rogue’ agent presumed dead by U.S. intelligence, Bourne resurfaces to seek for truth and closure. He is marked for death by a vengeful agent played by Vincent Cassel, with orders from the CIA Director, played by Tommy Lee Jones.
Recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander is a fresh, endearing face to the cast, deeply involved as an intelligence officer with an agenda. If there is a silver lining to Jason Bourne, it is that Vikander’s character may eventually prove to have longevity if developed properly in subsequent sequels.
In an ideal scenario, the visibly ageing Damon (who can only carry the franchise for so long) passes on the baton to Vikander to take the franchise—perhaps more relevantly—into the 2020s.
As a summer action-thriller, Jason Bourne does its job. It is still compelling if you are into Greengrass’ modus operandi—his shaky-cam technique while passé now is a reminder of the 2000s, a decade of political and social surveillance marked by films aiming for gritty realism and documentary immediacy. Greengrass was the undisputed master of this style, and it’s good to see him creating tense and spectacular foot and car chases again.