Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed and Tommy Lee Jones
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: July 27th
The vast majority of people want ‘the same, but different’ when it comes to new instalments of the things they enjoy. It’s why bands like U2, Foo Fighters and Slayer sustain for as long as they do. It’s why Marvel movies have the same third act every time. It’s why soap operas run for decades. It’s why genre fiction series’ continue on long past the death of their creators. And it’s why James Bond will return.
Jason Bourne is back, too. Following a hiatus that brought about Jeremy Renner, endless talk of ‘chems’ and the instantly-unwanted (but totally enjoyable) child that was The Bourne Legacy, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to reclaim their franchise and boldly… er, hit very familiar beats because they’ve already made the same film twice together so why stop now? Let’s not forget that The Bourne Ultimatum folded a good chunk of its predecessor into the narrative and it fit like a glove.
Lo and behold, Jason Bourne goes all in on ‘same but different’ and you likely won’t care all that much. Most spy exercises – and these in particular – amount to little more than ‘Character X knows too much about Y, will they survive to tell the tale?’ and the Bourne films pull this trick off better than most. Familiarity fails to breed contempt as Jason Bourne emerges as a Greatest Hits of what we’ve seen to date, slotting in chase sequences, intrigue, a sharp-suited antagonist played by a respected actor (Tommy Lee Jones), yet another ludicrously handsome rival assassin (Vincent Cassel) and Matt Damon slamming heads off walls like it’s especially aggressive beat poetry.
This time out, it falls to Julia Stiles’ long-suffering Nicky Parsons to kick things into gear as she attempts to emulate Edward Snowden (a name mentioned more than once in a script penned by Greengrass and his long-term editor Christopher Rouse, here making his official screenwriting debut) and expose the CIA for all their misdeeds. This action brings both a weary Bourne and his latest round of enemies into play and from there it’s business as usual. Starting strong, Greengrass mirrors his tortured hero and flexes his muscles, delivering a bravura sequence of high tension set on the streets of Athens as civil unrest boils over – a sight far removed from escapism in 2016 – that stands out as a series highpoint.
Alicia Vikander makes less of a lasting impression, going for tough reserve with her conflicted CIA agent but ultimately registering as quite detached and lifeless. Tommy Lee Jones does his Tommy Lee Jones thing despite having no Fugitive-esque scenery to chew on and Riz Ahmed is serviceable enough as the personification of a sub-plot that feels rather superfluous. Plot contrivances and Deus ex machina moments abound, but they’re trappings of the genre and only one such unnecessary misstep involving Vincent Cassel’s antagonist is likely to provoke eye-rolling.
At the end of the day, you’re here to see Matt Damon brood and kick the shit out of people in exotic locales, and Jason Bourne hits those marks perfectly, tapping into the series’ DNA like its titular hero was never away. By the time Moby’s sublime ‘Extreme Ways’ ushers you into the credits, you’ll be ready to take the same ride once again.