If you thought you’d seen the last of Jason Bourne, think again. Matt Damon is back as the eponymous star with director Paul Greengrass returning to call the shots. It’s a combination that has worked fantastically well before and does so again here.
Bourne is back and his return is not a disappointment. This film has reignited the lacklustre summer that has been full of classic franchises falling short of the mark like Independence Day, Ghostbusters and Star Trek. Matt Damon said he would never return to Bourne without director Paul Greengrass and you can see why. The timing is right, The Bourne Ultimatum came before the social media boom and whistleblower Edward Snowden; it is a different world now.
I, like many fans of the original trilogy, approached this with trepidation as the trilogy was rounded off and left with a neat and satisfying conclusion. The Bourne films reinvented the action genre, leading to many lesser copycat action films using the ‘shaky cam’ technique. Here Greengrass reminds you why he is the master of it.
The plot is really a collection of globe-trotting set pieces and the exploration of character motivation is paramount over a completely cohesive plot. Bourne is found living on the outskirts of society fighting his inner turmoil through bareknuckle boxing. He is thrust into the CIA radar again by the hacking antics of returning Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons. The callous part of the CIA is represented by the world weary face of Tommy Lee Jones. He fills the Brian Cox role, but his acting is superb and adds a welcome unexpected elegance. His CIA counterbalance is the young, fresh and tech-savvy Alicia Vikander as the ambitious Heather Lee. There are clearly plot threads like the social media tycoon, played by Riz Ahmed, that must have large chunks left on the cutting room floor, but the character exploration makes for superior viewing than a heavy plot.
Bourne’s motivation is constantly questioned; he is looking after himself and not aligning with a patriotic or freedom fighter stance. The nameless ‘asset’ following on from Clive Owen and Karl Urban is an emotionless Vincent Cassel. He has more depth than his predecessors as his grudge with Bourne is intertwined with personal revelations for the eponymous character. I don’t use the word hero to describe Bourne as the character would not describe himself as one and the film’s grounded reality does not treat him like one.
And finally the reason people will watch this at the cinema: the action. There is a tense motorbike chase through a Greek anti-austerity March, a crowded London showdown and a Las Vegas S.W.A.T. car pummelling traffic down the strip. The ‘shaky cam’ is expertly handled producing some of the best Bourne action ever.
For some the film may just leap from one set piece to the next. But the visually thrilling action and murky character motivation is a perfect combination for a summer blockbuster.