It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Bourne franchise probably should’ve swam off into the sunset when Matt Damon’s intrepid, titular hero did back in 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, and while this belated, tacked-on fourth entry is in many ways the perfunctory sequel some fans were worried about, it’s still stupefyingly entertaining for the most part.
After his former compatriot Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks the CIA and uncovers some vital information about his past, Jason Bourne (Damon) is brought out into the open once again, to seek closure about his earlier days while evading pursuit from the CIA, led by slimy director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones).
As you can likely glean from the premise, this is a fairly Bourne-by-numbers sequel, reluctantly pulling the character out of retirement for “one last job”, but of course, Universal is most likely dipping its toes for a full-on franchise resurgence depending upon how well this one performs.
Scripting is easily the biggest enemy here; without regular Bourne collaborator Tony Gilroy, it falls to director Paul Greengrass and series editor Christopher Rouse, who has never written a movie before, to hammer out the details. The film suffers accordingly, ending up as a greatest hits mashup of series tropes padded out with more contrived plot points than the entire prior films combined.
That said, the overall package is still so slick and confidently delivered that it’s hard not to at least enjoy Jason Bourne as cursory entertainment if not a flawed, well-intended effort to give franchise fans another go-around. Damon is, as ever, an extremely compelling lead and hasn’t missed a step here, while Jones and Vincent Cassel (the latter playing a doggedly determined “asset” with a vested interest in taking Bourne out) are superb and knowing additions to the line-up. Surprisingly dull, however, is recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, failing to make much interesting out of her ambiguously-motived CIA agent beyond a blank facial expression and robotic line delivery. How odd.
As for the action? Boy, the action. Greengrass is a master of the craft and has brought with him his regular DP Barry Ackroyd to shoot the shit out of two gigantic set-pieces in the film’s first and third acts, easily two of the most exhilarating action sequences put to screen this year, and doing a decent job convincing that, in spite of its flaws, this is an honest-to-God, balls-to-the-wall Bourne movie rather than a feckless commodity.
Expectation really is key here; if you’re anticipating anything on the level of the core trilogy, it doesn’t quite deliver, but if you’re simply craving bada** action with a little food-for-thought (there are a few genuinely clever, surprisingly balanced observations about our digitally-reliant society and the post-Snowden, post-Wikileaks world), it more than does the job.
It doesn’t really make a convincing argument for even more Bourne movies, but for the love of Christ, it wipes the floor with that Jeremy Renner one.
Jason Bourne is in cinemas now