By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of another summer blockbuster that has been nine years in the making (we are skipping The Bourne Legacy).
Yes, Jason Bourne is back in the film, erm, Jason Bourne. This is the fifth instalment in the franchise and Matt Damon’s fourth as he takes back the reigns from Jeremy Renner.
After the shambolic 2012 outing, audiences have been quietly poised for the latest offering. With much bigger films out this year, will this cut it with big guys or fall by the wayside? I took my seat in the packed-out Phoenix cinema to find out…
Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne, born David Webb, a former CIA assassin who disappeared after publicising details of the CIA's targeted assassination programs. The former operative is drawn out of hiding to uncover more explosive truths about his past.
The fifth Bourne film includes Tommy Lee Jones as Robert Dewey, the current director of the CIA and leader of the Iron Hand program who holds an intention to take down Bourne after the exposure of Blackbriar. Dewey’s Head of CIA Cyber Ops, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), makes her first appearance. Vincent Cassel is on hand to play the Asset, a Blackbriar assassin working for the Iron Hand program. His back story is intriguing as he was captured and tortured as a result of Bourne's actions in The Bourne Ultimatum – he of course has a personal vendetta against Damon. Rounding out the cast is Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor, the CEO and founder of Deep Dream, a social media enterprise.
Matt Damon reunites with director/writer Paul Greengrass after working on Bourne 2 and 3 together. I must admit, they do seem to be one of the best actor-director pairings. What’s interesting with this fifth film though is while we have the essence of the original Bourne films back, the spark seems to be missing. Paul recreated the conventional action sequences with car chases, stunts and fist-fights but it’s all been done before. The key word above is ‘recreated’ – it all seems a bit recycled. He’s great at the cinematic pieces but the plot he has written is a little on the unoriginal side.
One major difference here though is Damon’s Jason Bourne. For the first three films he had an air of vulnerability about him but now his character is forlorn with nothing to lose. The beauty of the trilogy was the importance to stay alive and expose the system but now he seems to be a side-plot in his own narrative. In Jason Bourne, both the story and Damon’s motivations are muddled - is he seeking revenge, to shut down the CIA's programs, or both? The audience feel too distant from Bourne when we should be rooting for him.
On the flipside, I still think Greengrass delivers on the directing. Contrary to some reviews stating this is some of his weakest work, I actually think his filmmaking and shot-calling is the glue. The previous outing missed his eye of the physical surroundings in action sequences, his wide-shot lenses, the shaking camera and the slick editing. Paul manages to keep a grasp of the thriller and make it entertaining even when at times the narrative feels a bit flimsy.
It’s a little frustrating that the story relies too much on recycled plot lines but it must be because there’s no real direction on where this movie can go. Even with the cliff hanger ending with Vikander’s Lee suggesting she may not be all that good, it still doesn’t seem a strong enough narrative to revisit the franchise again. I know Matt Damon is happy to do a number six but the saga has probably seen out its life now.
Interesting side-plots like Cassel’s Asset character having a personal battle with Bourne made this film more intriguing as parts of Jason’s history is revealed. And when the battle ends in a flashy-edited fighting sequence, you feel vindicated for the last hour. However, the supporting characters such as Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Aaron Kalloor lack substance and thus, the cat-and-mouse game between them all is not as riveting.
The fifth film seems to have lost its way. It’s been over 15 years and Bourne is still trying to expose the CIA’s system – do the public in these films still care? Plus, Aaron Kalloor’s social media software Deep Dream never really links up with the Treadstone plot. Jason Bourne is basically two espionage films mashed together; with neither really flourishing. Thank heavens for Paul Greengrass (in the directing department at least) who can call upon his talent to add a bit of glitter where needed. He just about keeps Jason Bourne afloat.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Jason Bourne is currently showing worldwide in selected cinemas as well as the Phoenix Cinema – certificate 12A