The dynamic duo of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return after a nearly ten-year hiatus (minus Green Zone) following the massive success of the latter two films in the original Jason Bourne trilogy with their latest: Jason Bourne. The fourth film in the franchise (sorry, Bourne Legacy) delivers all the heart-pounding action and exhilarating thrills that we have come to expect from this satisfyingly eclectic action franchise.
Things kick off with the titular character (Damon) near the Greece-Albania border, doing what he does best: kicking ass in gritty bare knuckle fights. Meanwhile, former Bourne ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is in Iceland, on the verge of extracting top secret information about past CIA projects like Blackbriar and Treadwell, and the CIA’s latest rendition Iron Hand, in an attempt to expose their experiments through an Edward Snowden-style info leak.
Through the CIA’s watchful eye Nicky’s supposed covert actions are quickly tracked by CIA agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and her Cyber ops outfit. With Nicky holding the power of sensitive information in her hands, she has put herself out in the open to new CIA director, Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), a vicious no-nonsense addition with an unrelenting priority, considering Nicky’s known ties to Bourne, of taking out off-the-radar Jason Bourne for good. Dewey works alongside an icy and cold-blooded Blackbriar assassin chillingly played by Vincent Cassel.
Matt Damon’s return as his iconic Jason Bourne character is the sure-fire entertaining action thriller that we’ve come to expect from Damon and director Greengrass (and Oscar-winning editor Christopher Rouse, who also serves as co-writer alongside Greengrass). However, Jason Bourne does not tread any new ground, cemented and tied to a format that we have seen in previous Bourne films.
Nonetheless, the film is very entertaining, with impressive action sequences (including an extended and exciting car chase through the Las Vegas strip), dizzying camera work, and rapid fire editing that still hold together well, a style oft imitated by countless lesser action movies.
What the latest installment of the series ultimately does is set-up future stories with former CIA assassin Jason Bourne, which unfortunately, is also the film’s biggest problem. What made the Bourne films so damn entertaining was how different each of them were. Jason Bourne, the film, feels almost redundant and safe as it pulls and retreats into what has worked in the past.
There’s also a subplot involving Deep Dream, a social media platform, and founder / CEO Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) and his clandestine relationship with the CIA and Dewey. This only really works as a plot device that escalates in the third act, yet never really blossoms into much more.
There is definitely an opportunity to grow as a franchise and the film nearly takes a stance on the whole online privacy issue, but doesn’t really care to delve too deep, opting to duke it out on the streets. A meager attempt to reflect the very real issue of privacy in a world dominated by social media connections is a nod to these modern times, but it’s all superficial and surface level, barely attempting to make it something bigger than it should actually be. Is this expecting too much from an action franchise? Perhaps. But for a series that has already set the bar for intelligent and engaging action, tackling social issues wouldn’t seem too outlandish or misguided.
Nevertheless, Jason Bourne is an exhilarating high-caliber good time packed with exciting action sequences that we have come to expect from the teaming of Damon and Greengrass. I’m hoping that the flaws present less about a tired franchise beginning to show its wear-and-tear, and merely a set-up for bigger and better things. As it stands, Bourne’s long-awaited return doesn’t (mostly) disappoint.