Amnesiac spy Jason Bourne hit our screens in 2002, but he feels very much part of cinematic culture. After Jeremy Renner spin-off The Bourne Legacy vanished without a trace, the new instalment brings back Matt Damon as the spy who started it all. Jason Bourne is a topical action film, but it suffers from unequal performance, a nonsensical plot and an editing job that was, I think, designed to induce illness.
It’s been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. Hoping to draw him out of the shadows, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to find him – Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is also on the hunt for Bourne. As she begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling a sinister network that uses terror and technology to maintain unchecked power.
I feel like I need to say this again, because seemingly every film released this summer has been a sequel or some franchise continuation, but I haven’t seen the other films in the Bourne series – as such, I’m not particularly familiar with any of the mythology surrounding the films, but that wasn’t too much of a problem here. The main story outline is covered via a bunch of flashbacks at the start, and a bit of exposition – the only thing I really missed out on was the fact Julia Stiles was in previous films, and thus the value of her character.
You don’t come to a film like this for the story, however – the attraction is in the action, and Jason Bourne is mostly disappointing on that front. Aside from a couple of bare-knuckle fights, the action is mostly chase sequences, one on a motorbike (that, if you’ve seen the trailer, has been ruined for you) and several on foot. The execution is somewhat lacking, though – it is so frenetic that, at points, my head hurt to watch it. There are so many blurry zooms, pans and quick cuts, hallmarks of the really shaky cinematography that make any fast sequences a bit unpleasant for the viewer.
The cast seem like they aren’t quite sure what to make of goings-on either. Damon just skulks around everywhere, a one-note sour expression on his face throughout the film – his performance is, quite frankly, dull. Alicia Vikander, who is normally very good, is uneven here too – she begs for a role in an operation, saying she can bring Bourne back into the fold (why she has that confidence is another question entirely), sitting around for a bit and then supporting him in the flick of a switch. Vincent Cassel also is bland – he plays the ‘asset,’ an enforcement figure who just walks around shooting people. These actors are good when they have stuff to work with – they do not have that stuff here.
Tommy Lee Jones is the saviour of the movie – here, he brings his typical grizzled and deadpan nature to the role of the CIA director, who it quickly transpires is more than a little dodgy. He’s good at being mean, and he makes a fitting baddies – it’s a shame, then, that he is saddled with a conspiracy that is so daft that it’s hard to find it threatening. Jason Bourne is set in a post-Snowden world, and posits itself as a cyber-thriller with some definite views on government surveillance. They never really feel connected to Bourne until the finale, when all the main players meet in one place.
Jason Bourne is a serviceable action movie – the pieces to make it something special are there, but they aren’t put together particularly well. I’m sure that Bourne fans will enjoy it, but it may be more of a grind for the new viewer.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon (Jason Bourne), Tommy Lee Jones (CIA Director Robert Dewey), Alicia Vikander (Heather Lee), Vincent Cassel (Asset), Julia Stiles (Nicky Parsons), Riz Ahmed (Aaron Kalloor)
Running Time: 123 Mins