Synopsis – The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.
My Take – I’ll say straight up that I’m a big fan of Bourne. The original three Bourne films are some of the greatest action films and among my personal favorites. The Bourne Ultimatum in particular is up there with Terminator 2 and Aliens in my estimation as one of the greatest action sequels ever made. After years of speculations and Matt Damon straight up refusing to come back to the character without the Paul Greengrass in the director’s chair, we finally a new installment. This is his 4th proper outing as our forgetful hero, if you ignore 2012’s “The Bourne Legacy” with Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz: a ‘parallel time-stream’ drama that – rather against the stream of opinion I think – I also quite liked even though it didn’t feel like a part of the franchise without Matt Damon spearheading it. Yet, due to the low key promotions I had a few reservations, but luckily this film proved my concerns were completely unfounded. While it may not be the best of the Bourne movies with Matt Damon, but it belongs right up there with them, between Supremacy & Ultimatum. It is, by far, one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Yes, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have done it again, and Bourne is back with a Vesuvius style eruption of thrills and spills. This adrenaline fueled, thrill ride of a movie will get your blood pumping and your heart pounding. Suggest you seek medical advice before you take your seat! The story follows Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in the post Snowden world years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Settled in Greece and still haunted by his past, Bourne makes his living as a bare knuckle fighter. Despite being off the grid for years, his old ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) visits him with startling information about Treadstone, the Program that created him, and is father.
Assuming this meeting to be another form of expose along the lines of Edward Snowden, CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his ambitious protégé Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) decide to track down by Bourne with different agendas. While Dewey activates the revenge fueled The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to terminate Bourne, Lee wants to bring Bourne back into the program to put Bourne skills to proper use. Jason goes on a dangerous adventure where he loses friends, makes new enemies, finds old ones and more all to uncover his past when he was part of the special ops CIA program and what happened to him. This story may sound confusing if the viewer is unfamiliar with previous Bourne stories. Although you can guess what happened in previous events as the film attempts to explain what Matt‘s character is trying to achieve, if you know who the character Jason Bourne is and what the series are about, it’s easier to follow. The good thing is that you do not need to read every book of the series or watch all the previous films since the flashbacks and conversation mostly explains what happened before. The first three Bourne movies were all pretty much about Bourne learning who he was by exposing what the CIA did to him, and once he did all of that, that was it. We didn’t get to see what those revelations really meant for Bourne, which is what Jason Bourne does. When we first see Bourne again, he is a man adrift. He has no purpose in life and is struggling with the knowledge that he was a killer. Then Nicky comes back into his life, and with her she brings an emotional bombshell that sends Bourne into action once more. It is that emotional bombshell that makes this such a strong movie. It creates a basic human reason for the carnage beyond Bourne simply wanting to know who he was. Of course, while the Bourne movies have always been known for their smart storytelling, they’re still action movies first and foremost, and the film more than satisfies on that mark. The new writers have developed a refreshingly complex and layered story featuring a metaphorically lost Bourne accompanied by a sub-plot about digital privacy that brings a welcome layer of social commentary. What resonates most is the personal existential journey of Damon’s Bourne. At the story arc Bourne confronts duplicitous CIA Director Robert Dewey. Bourne says “I volunteered on a lie…”. Dewey tells Jason, “You’re never going to find any peace…” Jason finds little solace in the fact that the world is safer, because of what he has done. Just like Damon promised, “It brings Bourne into post Snowden world.” Because of this you will notice the technology used by NSA is much better than the previous movies which makes the movie much more entertaining. In the original trilogy Bourne completely overpowered them in realistic ways some of time and sometimes unrealistic ways. Whereas this one is much more evenly matched and realistic; you genuinely don’t know which side will win throughout the movie.
This brings out the best and smartest Bourne we have seen on screen and leaves you on the edge of your seat in ways other action movies can only dream of. What makes this film so outstanding is its flawlessly choreographed action and fight sequences accompanied by John Powell‘s percussion-heavy score which heightens the expertly directed intense action sequences. Director Greengrass proves once again that he is able to be the eye of the storm. Many of the action sequences in this film including the long intense opening, are set in the middle of a chaotic crowd. So when everybody’s running for their lives, right at the center of it is this manhunt; the agency’s pursuing Bourne, and you get to see Bourne’s many creative methods of being elusive in those moments. I applaud for Greengrass for keeping it all grounded in what could be perceived as real, because even innocent bystanders could get killed if they happen to be in the way. From a tense motorcycle chase during a riot in Greece, all the way to a car chase on the Las Vegas strip, this is an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. While I think the final fight between Bourne and the bad guy is a little lackluster compared to some of the great fight scenes in previous Bourne movies, the end result of the fight is emotionally cathartic. While, I do agree the screenplay does offer up an promising post-Snowden scenario but it still feels a little too familiar. But unlike some Bourne fans who were apparently disappointed by this outing. I was not. I thought it was well up to standard. True there is a certain sense of re-tread (or perhaps that should be Treadstone 2.0, eh!) to this, but the same could certainly be said for similar franchises (like Bond, and all of the current stock of superhero films). I personally can never get enough of Bourne – even the music and the pleasantly familiar end titles are a joy – so for me that’s just fine! Fans have also been complaining about the limited amount of dialogue from our titular character, but in my opinion Bourne as a character has always been the silent but deadly type, and in this film he goes to extremes with director Greengrass, only giving him an alleged 25 lines in the whole film (I wasn’t sad enough to count them but I can believe that to be true), which seemed appropriate. Matt Damon shines as Bourne again; he is a world- class leading man and action hero with a physicality and determination that elevates the action to the highest level. When Matt Damon dons the role of Bourne he is a different actor. He talks less, keeps the numb expression throughout and that’s what makes him best. Julia Stiles is likable in a pivotal and emotional plot-driving role. My favorite actress of the moment Alicia Vikander just radiates class with a mesmerizing screen presence. Alicia Vikander is only getting better and better with each movie and she excels. Riz Ahmend‘s character as the social media/startup genius Aaron Kalloor is quite ambiguous. Tommy Lee Jones is passable. Ato Essandoh is good. The very underrated Vincent Cassel is excellent. On the whole, ‘Jason Bourne’ lives up to the incredible high standards set by the original trilogy as an brilliantly directed, surprisingly emotional action spy thriller that will be remembered as one of 2016’s best films.
Directed – Paul Greengrass
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 123 minutes