Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Tommy Lee Jones
Release Date: July 29th, 2016
It’s been nine years since Matt Damon took on his action star role as Jason Bourne in the The Bourne Identity. Two sequels later, more about Damon took a break from the franchise. Jeremy Renner took over the franchise (albeit in a different role) in the disappointing and critically-panned Bourne Legacy (2012) and now after a nine year absence, Damon has returned to the series in the new thriller Jason Bourne.
It’s undeniably exciting to see Damon return but it’s hard not to wish that this sequel tried to differentiate itself more from its predecessors.
In the earlier features, the memory-challenged Bourne realized that the CIA had lied and manipulated him. He sought revenge against government officials and helped uncover conspiracies. He was hunted by fellow operatives and oftentimes regained some vague memories at the end while finding justice.
Instead of finding its own path, Jason Bourne follows a similar path — rejecting new ideas and settling for a very traditional story. For fans of the franchise, this one fits right in. For others, this newest installment will likely feel tiresome.
In addition to Damon returning alongside director Paul Greengrass, Julia Stiles returns here as Nicky Parsons, a now-former CIA analyst who wants to release confidential files (about Treadstone, the secretive program that created Bourne, and other operations) to the public. She recruits Bourne to help her. Of course, the CIA wants to stop the duo.
Working for the CIA is director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and officer Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Vincent Cassel co-stars as the Asset, a fearless assassin who wants to eliminate Bourne.
Along the way, there are a variety of solid chase sequences depicting the Asset hunting down Bourne. Although there are a few memorable ones (including one featuring Bourne and Parsons on a bike), none of them are truly superb, especially as compared to some of the great fight sequences in the series’ earlier installments.
Those Bourne films offered some amazingly visceral fight scenes where Bourne had to take on his opponents in intense hand-to-hand combat. Greengrass’ direction was sometimes frantic but those scenes packed a punch. Here, Greengrass and Damon try to recreate those moments but none of them stand out as being as exciting.
The same feeling extends to the whole storyline itself, which offers a glimpse into Bourne’s life before his recruitment. Here, there are some new secrets that add a depth to Bourne’s journey but don’t really offer the emotional importance they should.
For those worried that the film is completely predictable, there are a few elements that did stand out. In a small but integral role, Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor. Kalloor is the CEO of a social media enterprise that is secretly being funded by Dewey’s CIA. The story-line raises solid and serious questions about government surveillance and the alliances sometimes shared between private sector companies and government officials.
Another story-line — concerning Lee’s thoughts on Bourne’s patriotism — works quite well, offering a peek at the idea that this franchise could expand into unique territory. Instead, the story veers the plot back into more conventional territory.
For those who enjoyed the original trilogy– as I did– Jason Bourne is a satisfying return to the series after The Bourne Legacy set it off track. That being said, one hopes that this series strives to do something different and more unique in the future.
Review by: John Hanlon