Written in August, 2016
Are you a fan of strong, cold, taciturn agents? If yes, Matt Damon’s fourth outing as the amnesiac super-assassin in Jason Bourne should be your main course in the summer movie feast. The new sequel, directed by Paul Greengrass, comes after The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) — not counting franchise spinoff The Bourne Legacy (2012) without Bourne’s appearance.
The series returns with Bourne making ends meet as a bare-knuckle brawler on the outskirts of Greece. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), his longtime associate, reappears after harvesting information about CIA’s past skullduggery involving Bourne’s father (Gregg Henry). Nicky’s intention to upload the murky secrets online catches attention from CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and cyber head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). They order the Asset (Vincent Cassel), who murdered Bourne’s father years ago and still harbors resentment against Bourne, to kill the pair. Amid a violent anti-government protest in Athens, the globe-trotting chase after Bourne began. Arguing that the former spy need to be brought in rather than put down, Heather assists Bourne all the way to the climax fight in Las Vegas, whose purpose remains unclear until the very last as a spark. On another side of the story, Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), CEO of social media platform Deep Dream and Heather’s college contemporary, is caught in a dilemma of whether to help the intelligence agencies with data-mining and privacy-breaching.
Given less than 40 lines to say, Damon manages to exude a tremendous amount of emotionality by facial expression and body motion, especially when Nicky is shot to death in front of him and when Heather is about to face a similar destiny. As the cynical and chilling CIA big boss, Jones keeps your toes freezing from start to finish by his fake bonhomie. Vikander is a surprise — smart, determined, charming, but mysterious — she definitely deserves a big hand at being a high-tech heroine. Moreover, Cassel sparkles on screen as the malevolent and resourceful nemesis against Bourne and Ahmed brings much weight as the charismatic young entrepreneur.
Based on Robert Ludlum’s characters, the story is co-written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, which is closely relevant to current international affairs. The rise of social media, the Mark Zuckerberg-type pioneer, the mention of Edward Snowden, the riot in Greece, the tension between security and privacy — all mindfully tasted, albeit by tiny sips, creating an immersed sense.
Greengrass puts a lot of effort into making the plot comprehensible for most of us, with or without knowledge of prior trilogy. Background facts reoccur so many times that it becomes even a bit repetitive and tiresome. He is talented at harnessing terrific chase sequences and fight scenes, although the ingredients stay exceptionally formulaic — a summation of fist fights, gun shots and car races. There is excellent work of John Powell’s pulsating music and Barry Ackroyd’s handheld camerawork (which shakes when moving and fighting and zooms in to eyes when emphasizing).
However, possibly due to the fast speed of storytelling, the film sometimes seems like a string of random successive events with gaps difficult to bridge by imagination. For instance, there is no clear clue how Nicky finds Bourne from nowhere. Besides, some action scenes shift so quickly that it is almost an impossible mission to grasp what’s actually going on, leaving eyes dazzled, but brains confused.
Though imperfect, Jason Bourne is overall a mature action movie. If you simply come to seek thrills, it will be a great choice, yet if you fancy something more than pure excitement, there isn’t much to explore.