TL;DR – This movie is everything you have come to expect from a Jason Bourne film, but that means all the good and the bad is here.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
I have to say before we start that the original Bourne Trilogy (Identity, Supremacy & Ultimatum) is probably one of my favourite trilogies of all time, for me I put it up there with the original Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The follow-up Legacy had some interesting ideas but it lacked the style and understanding of the previous films, and it felt like they had just inserted the Bourne universe into an original IP. So given how high my impression of the first films was, and how low the follow up was, I was preparing myself for this iteration to be a train wreck, but thankfully it’s not. For me, it is everything the old Bourne’s were, however, the last of those films were made almost 10 years ago, and that is a bit of the problem if you are just doing the same thing over again.
For those who have not seen the previous trilogy, firstly I highly recommend you go watch the previous trilogy, but to catch you up: Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was a soldier who was conditioned into being an assassin for the CIA, until he failed a mission and washed up in the Mediterranean with no memory and two bullets in his back. This sets off a series of events that puts Bourne on a collision course with his former masters (which are played by just about every old cantankerous white dude that Hollywood has to offer) who want him dead, those in the CIA that want to bring him in, and other random people that are against him for reasons. Which of course means fights, shootouts, car chases, and romping around Europe leaving carnage in its wake. Now the good news is if you never bothered to watch Legacy you don’t need to see it in preparation for this film, as it is not referenced much, if at all, so you only need to watch the first three, and even then they do a good job of catching you up even if you have never seen a film.
So after the failed continuation they have brought Matt Daemon and Paul Greengrass back to try and revitalise the franchise, and bring it back to its roots, and for the most part, it works. Now if you don’t like shaky cam, well then you probably already know to avoid all the Bourne films, and it is used extensively in Jason Bourne. For the most part it works, as it ratchets up the tension and does give a sense of impact to action sequences, though this being said, in some of the fight scenes they cut so much that it is actually a bit hard to follow what is happening, so they need to work a bit on this. The action sequences themselves are all really quite good, and indeed this is a hallmark of the series and if this wasn’t the case Bourne would be in a lot of trouble, but fists interact with people’s faces, guns get shot, and cars get chased, so if that is all you want in a film you’ll be set here. Because Matt Damon is getting a bit on in years, the transitions between him and the stunt doubles are quite seamless, though there is one sequence when the use of CGI is apparent, and that is a bit of a shame as this is a series that always tries to have that kind of practical feel. The staging of scenes was quite good, for example at the start of the film there is a riot out the front of the Greek Parliament, and the placement of the protesters and police feel more realistic than we have seen in the past, to the point when you start to wonder if they used some stock footage to pull off some of the aerial shots. All of this has the professionality that you have come to expect and a sense of familiarity that comes with the series, but come on, using CGI to de-age someone still looks bad even if you put a flashback filter over the top of it.
Since it has been 10 years since the last film, it is good to see that the movie does not shy away from that, with both Bourne and Nicky (Julia Stiles) showing the drain of spending ten years living off the grid. This is also shown in the fact that there is a completely new cast back at the CIA, and given the mess that was how they dealt with a lot of the returning players in Legacy, starting with a fresh cast was probably for the best. Tommy Lee Jones is at his cantankerous best as the CIA Director Robert Dewey, honestly, that man makes being crotchety an art form. Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee the head of Cyberthreats department and there is an interesting interplay between the old school and new school that I wish they had focused on a bit more. Indeed the film is set in a post-Snowden world so that’s quite interesting especially with Riz Ahmed playing Aaron Kalloor, a Zuckerberg substitute who is woven into this latest scandal. However, this is where the film starts to falter a bit and since we will be talking about the story, time to engage the SPOILER WARNING if you have not seen the film you should skip to the next paragraph. The more the story goes on the more unbelievable the actions of Dewey become, there is no way that CIA director would allow an asset (Vincent Cassel) that is so caviler about innocent civilian collateral damage to romp around a NATO Ally, especially an asset that is A) personally involved with the subject and B) that gets spotted by the police because they don’t know how to sniper. Indeed as well as this, it is inconceivable that a CIA Director would just be chill with just randomly killing off four CIA operatives for no apparent reason, as well as this the very ending of the film just falls flat END OF SPOILERS.
So what are my general impressions, I did really like it, it was a return to form for the series, and more than everything else it felt familiar, but that cuts a bit both ways, as it has not really changed all that much, so they really need to start to look at innovation rather than repetition here. The action is great and while the story might not be the strongest in places, on the whole, it works, and more than ever I am interested to see what is next.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Paul Greengrass
Written by – Paul Greengrass & Christopher Rouse
Based on – Characters created by Robert Ludlum
Starring – Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Riz Ahmed & Vincent Cassel
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12a; USA: PG-13