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.
already going to complain about Tommy Lee Jones’ particular advances…
A lot of it feels like a rehash of The Bourne Ultimatum, spotting the hero in the train station and it’s all, “There’s Bourne!!!” and then they lose him again, and then they spot him again, and so on. But…. it’s a damn sight more entertaining. There’s lots of tension as people are running around following other people, lots of double-crossing, lots of cloak and dagger stuff, lots of globetrotting – to the point of losing track of the number of places they visited (or said they visited – you know how Hollywood often has one place doubling for another), and at one point, Bourne and Nicky are riding on a motorbike which I thought should’ve been done with BBC’s kids show Kickstart tootling away in the background.
Oh, and everyone walks round with a ‘resting bitch face’.
Greengrass directs some very quick-cutting of all fights to the point of ridiculousness, so that you don’t see direct injury, in order to keep it as a 12-certificate, hence why you can’t beat something like the 15-cert John Wick for lots of lovely gunshots to the face!
And I’ll give no spoilers, but have you ever sat in the cinema thinking you know exactly how the very end of a film will play out… and you’re right? Well, not in terms of the plot, but I had a feeling we’d get something neat happening and then Moby’s Extreme Ways starting up as the cool CGI end credits begin. And that’s what we got. But then again, that’s what we always get with a Bourne film. And it works. As always, since ‘Ultimatum‘, it’s another slight remix, although I only noticed this at the start, as it soon returns to the usual.
However, despite being a reasonable fan of Spooks, I went to see Spooks: The Greater Good and assumed the end would go the same way – you know, it all freeze-frames, turns to black and white and then the top and bottom of the screen close in on each other to a black screen? Well, it did all of that apart from the last bit when it faded to black. Quite honestly, I felt cheated. So it’s good that Jason Bourne continues to deliver the goods.
One thing this reminded me of, in terms of pacing, is how a ‘24‘ movie would look, obviously with a clock coming into view every now and again. However, with the idea of that first being mooted a long time ago, and with the brand diversify next year into 24: Legacy, I can’t see that actually happening.
So, will we get ‘Bourne 6‘? Well, the story was rather threadbare in this, even if it was more action-packed than I expected. On the one hand – plot-wise – I wouldn’t say it was necessary, but then again, next April sees the release of Fast and Furious 8…
And, following my previous end-credit adventures, how did this one go? Well, after being told the automatic end-credit lighting situation was being looked into, this time, they stay off completely, so it was as dark as it is during the film. This was better than I expected, as I assumed they’d go up a bit slightly to around pre-film trailer/adverts level, so no-one breaks their neck as they walk down the stairs. But then, despite the cleaners having been told not to start cleaning up while there are still people in the auditorium, they did come in, switched the big light on, then saw me, then switched it off again… and still continued to clean up in the dark. Huh? Why not just take a 10-minute break? It’s okay – I’ll cover for them! 🙂
Or, given the lead character in this film… did they forget? 😉
Running time: 123 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K) (some scenes), Canon Cinema RAW (4K) (some shots), CineForm RAW (2K) (some shots), Redcode RAW (6K) (some shots), Super 16 (some scenes), Super 35 (3-perf)
Released: July 27th 2016
Director: Paul Greengrass
Producers: Matt Damon, Gregory Goodman, Paul Greengrass, Frank Marshall, Ben Smith and Jeffery M Weiner
Screenplay: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse (based on the characters created by Robert Ludlum)
Music: David Buckley and John Powell
Jason Bourne: Matt Damon
CIA Director Robert Dewey: Tommy Lee Jones
Heather Lee: Alicia Vikander
Asset: Vincent Cassel
Nicky Parsons: Julia Stiles
Aaron Kalloor: Riz Ahmed
Craig Jeffers: Ato Essandoh
Director NI Edwin Russell: Scott Shepherd
Malcolm Smith: Bill Camp
Christian Dassault: Vinzenz Kiefer
Baumen: Stephen Kunken
Greek Van Driver: Ben Stylianou
Richard Webb: Gregg Henry
Hacker: Kaya Yuzuki
Lead Hub Tech: Matthew O’Neil
Cyber Hub Tech: Lizzie Phillips
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.