Jason Bourne is Matt Damon‘s titular hero who gave us ‘Die Hard in a Forgetful Man’s Head‘ in Robert Ludlum‘s Bourne Trilogy, beginning with Doug Liman‘s superb 2002 opener, The Bourne Identity which, even before I saw it, I had a vision in my head as to how it started based on what I’d heard… and somehow, even though I don’t read books – and the films are apparently only loosely based on those, I was precisely right.
Then came the sequels – The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), with which I was less impressed, which I put down to the pedestrian direction of Paul Greengrass, a man who everyone seems to hail as one of the great directors but I’ve yet to see it. For me, he even managed to turn the terror of 9/11 into a bore-fest in 2006’s United 93, where only the final 20 minutes seemed to offer any form of engagement, the rest of it being characters on a plane having fabricated conversations (as no-one knows what they said, unless they were calling home at that moment) or characters in an airport panicking about what to do next, when we knew very well what came next.
Then followed 2010’s Green Zone (another Greengrass/Damon collaboration) and 2013’s Captain Phillips (Greengrass directs Tom Hanks as a ship captain who encounters terrorists boarding his ship, and he thwarts them by expertly performing ‘Chopsticks’ on a floor piano… or something). And we also had The Bourne Legacy – it was the worst of the lot. No Greengrass or Damon, but Jeremy Renner as another sleeper agent, and Tony Gilroy as the writer/director, with the tagline “There was never just one”.
But now there’s five, since Jason Bourne is the fifth film in the long-since-left-the-books franchise. Damon clearly has a tax bill to pay, and, as for Greengrass… oh well, he’s got to make a decent film one day, right?
And thankfully, he has.
You’ll be more invested in the story if you’ve seen the previous films (primarily, the first three, since the fourth never gets a mention), but if not, there is a potted history at the start to help catch up. I do think it should’ve had a better title, though – perhaps, The Bourne Remembering, or Bourne: This Time It’s Personal. Still, the title doesn’t really matter because what you want is two hours of Jason Bourne going round many towns cracking skulls to get to the truth.
On the plus AND minus side, this quinquel (if there exists such a word) is two hours of constant chasing – or rather, fast-walking – which is a good thing as there’s no let-up, but there’s also a bit too much of it, all taking the place of plotting. It could’ve done with losing around fifteen minutes of this (that could’ve made it an 8/10). Still, it’s a damn sight more enjoyable than anything else I’ve viewed under the name of Paul Greengrass in the past, and overall, this turns out to be is the best Jason Bourne film since the first.
We first see Bourne in Greece having a Ronnie Pickering-style bare-knuckle fight, since when you live off the grid, the only thing you can earn a crust doing is to mash someone else’s brains apart – money in your hand, no income tax, no VAT, you see. Meanwhile, in Iceland, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is hacking into the CIA, attempting to do a ‘Snowden’, planning to put all the old Treadstone files online, along with whatever else incriminating stuff she can find. This will, naturally cause, mucho embarrassment for those high up.
At some point, Nicky and Bourne are going to meet up, and then the US government are going to be chasing after them again, until the running time decreases to zero (minus 8-10 minutes for the credits). Add in Four Lions‘ Riz Ahmed as Zuckerberg-esque founder of Facebook equivalent Deep Dreams, Aaron Kalloor, Vincent Cassel as ‘grumpy man going off in pursuit of Bourne’, Ex Machina‘s Alicia Vikander as new, young CIA go-getter-wanting-to-make-a-name-for-herself Heather Lee, and Tommy Lee Jones completes the main cast as sarky CIA Director Robert Dewey, who seems to have a history with Bourne, yet this is TLJ’s first appearance in the franchise.
And, at this point, I can’t remember if Tommy said to newbie Alicia, “You don’t have any idea who you’re dealing with”, or whether I’ve just summed up in my head all of their conversations into one statement, since that’s basically how they all go.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts about this film…
already going to complain about Tommy Lee Jones’ particular advances…
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.