Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 3.25/5 cans of Guinness
The Bourne Identity is one of my favourite action films of all time and in my eyes one of the most influential films of the early 2000’s. Most action films at the time were incorporating more and more CGI which if we are being honest wasn’t exactly in its prime back then. The Spy genre was pretty sparse by that time as well and the only big budget spy film released that year was the abysmal Die Another Day (shudders), which effectively forced studios to reinvent James Bond. After the success of The Bourne films Casino Royale dropped with a new Bond and a new tone which bore a resemblance the Bourne series more grounded and serious aesthetic. No longer were spies throwing henchmen into paper shredders or shark tanks and quipping about it now they were smashing their faces in.
Doug Liman set the benchmark for most action films thereafter by using a handheld camera, close-ups and clever editing to produce breath-taking, bone crunching action which placed you right in the scene and had you wincing after every punch or kick. It’s a technique which has made it into most modern action scenes including this years Captain America: Civil War, although it’s not the easiest technique to employ as too many directors have confused this with having an epileptic fit while holding a camera which has led to the nauseating and resented shaky cam.
The Bourne Ultimatum nicely tied up the First three films and felt like a suitable conclusion to Bourne’s arc, ending the series there probably would have been for the best. But oh no they had to go for the cash grab and stamp the Bourne name onto the awful Bourne Legacy. Maybe if the studio just made a Jeremy Renner action thriller in the vein of the Bourne films I would let it off the hook and be less critical of it but tying it to the Bourne series made no sense. The real reason why Jason Bourne was one of my most anticipated films this year was simply because Damon and Greengrass were returning and I hoped that it would at least make up for the Bourne Legacy.
Jason Bourne is probably the worst out of the Matt Damon films but it’s still a good Bourne film with some pretty great moments. The reason I would rank Jason Bourne the lower than the others is because the film is never quite as intelligent as it thinks it is (wait till you see the hacking scene). The previous films maintained a certain degree of intrigue slowly unveiling the conspiracies at play, here the grand scheme is revealed fairly early and had me cringing when it incorporated social media. The previous films have dealt with top-secret black op assassinations, government cover ups and creating almost super human operatives, but somehow the next logical step is that the CIA can monitor us all through social media (riveting stuff).
While the plot is a bit lacking a strong cast makes up for it, Damon is as good as ever playing the nearly unstoppable but also vulnerable Jason Bourne, Its been nine years since the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and Jason still cannot live a normal life. Alicia Vikander is a great new addition as the cold and calculated CIA operative tasked with hunting down Jason while Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones as good as ever. Vincent Cassell is both bloodthirsty and relentless as the latest operative out for Bourne’s head although I believe giving him and Bourne both a personal vendetta is a misfire as these agents have always felt scarier as just assassins doing what their ordered.
For the most part the action scenes are fantastic, the chase scene through a riot in Greece had me on the edge of my seat and the majority of Damon’s fight scenes deliver the same impact as the original films. My only gripe is that the film has some truly awful instances of shaky cam, it feels like Greengrass is moving the camera awful at pivotal moments leaving us to only hear the action, it’s a far cry from some of the earlier fight scenes in this series. It’s still great seeing Bourne dispatch adversaries effortlessly. Seriously, when will shady government officials just learn to leave Jason Bourne alone, how many cemeteries does he have to fill till they learn not to fuck with him.
I saw both this and Suicide Squad the same week and while both were disappointing for me I felt like Jason Bourne at least delivered on what it promised and that being a worthy entry to the series. While the film has been dumbed-down it still maintains its identity and benefits from intense pacing, fierce and brutal action scenes and a capable cast known from this series.