Back in 2002 The Bourne Identity established in Jason Bourne, a new kind of movie spy, one with the destructive skills and resourcefulness of James Bond but none of the imperialism, sexism or playboy antics. This approach was refreshingly gritty and confronting and not surprisingly has heavily influenced the style of recent Bond films. The Bourne franchise struck a major hurdle, though, when star Matt Damon decided he no longer wanted to play Bourne and in an unsuccessful experiment was replaced by Jeremy Renner for The Bourne Legacy. Damon is back, however, for Jason Bourne in what appears to be an optimistic attempt to re-boot the franchise.
For better or worse director Paul Greengrass has stuck very much to the old formula for this film. It looks exactly like every other Bourne film with its typical wintry grey-blue cinematography and use of major city locations such as London and Athens. Plot-wise it’s still rogue secret agent Jason Bourne skipping around the globe trying to piece together fragments of memory and solve the riddle of his identity and that of several nefarious CIA black ops programs that have controlled his life. As Bourne gathers information, CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to hunt him down using tech wiz agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and a cold-blooded hit man simply known as the Asset (Vincent Cassell).
While not as ridiculously convoluted as a Bond film, the plot here does take a few detours that will have audiences scratching their noggins. The film also contains some highly unbelievable scenarios such as one involving the CIA’s collaboration with a tech company which sees Director Dewey inexplicably greeted like a rock star by cyber geeks at a tech convention. Plot quirks are of little consequence, though, as this film, like the other Bourne’s, is about style and destruction.
This one ups the pace and the action quotient on the previous films with a near endless stream of car chases, fights and scenes of property destruction. There are fewer slow patches than the other Bourne’s and no romance, in fact, Bourne rarely talks to another person face-to-face. Greengrass includes some Jean Le Carre-esque examination of espionage bureaucracy but even these scenes are filmed at a gallop with intense music playing the whole time.
While Greengrass establishes a potent mix of tension and explosive violence, he occasionally undermines the effect with infuriating, over-the-top wobble-cam which badly obscures the action, particularly during fight scenes. Also, comically, Jason Bourne is once again as indestructible as Superman and no amount of beatings, stranglings, shootings, car crashes or falls from buildings can so much as scratch him.
Damon, however, has lost none of his charisma as Bourne and still gives the character a sympathetic everyman quality despite his super human powers of recuperation and the small matter of him beating the snot out of or killing a lot of people. Tommy Lee Jones looks typically grumpy but brings his usual weather-beaten appeal to the role of CIA boss Dewey. The ubiquitous Alicia Vikander is excellent as always, exuding a hypnotic mix of steely intensity, intelligence and vulnerability.
For action junkies who can stomach wobble-cam this will be a thrilling ride but for many viewers if may feel a little too familiar.
Nick’s rating: ***.
Genre: Action, thriller.
Director(s): Paul Greengrass.
Release date: 28th July 2016.
Running time: 123 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show
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