Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander
It has been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon, and he has been since living in the shadows. However, after his former colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) manages to track him down with revealing information about his past, Jason Bourne finds himself back in action to try and uncover these secrets, while CIA expert Heather Lee (Vikander) and a dangerous figure from Jason’s past both try tirelessly to track him down.
In the film industry, no matter who insists that a franchise or particular elements of that franchise are finished, never rule out a comeback. The Bourne franchise is certainly a case in point; after the abysmal The Bourne Legacy (review) it was indeed a franchise in crisis that looked dead and buried. Matt Damon’s hugely successful trilogy came to a natural close in terms of both the films and books that they were based on, and so, if the cynical money grabbing studio were to insist on carrying on milking this particular cash cow then it made sense to expand the universe of the franchise. As much as this was a good idea, the plot of the Jeremy Renner starring The Bourne Legacy certainly left things very open for a direct sequel that never happened. The main reason for this was probably because that film was so incredibly dull, even though we will never find out the exact foundations of Edward Norton’s and Jeremy Renner’s extremely homoerotic relationship!
Well, in what seems like a total rescue job, not only is Matt Damon back, but so too is director Paul Greengrass. Also instead of adapting any of the other subsequent Bourne books, Greengrass has co-written an original script with Christopher Rouse, and also decided to avoid any cheap and tacky Bourne-based pun to produce a title that really does not mess about!
Well, though Jason Bourne is not exactly a return to form for Damon and Greengrass, it is definitely business as usual as it is visually the same as their previous films together. The plot itself is almost impossible to follow, with very little exposition, but this is not because it is necessarily an intelligent plot with loads of twists and turns, more that Greengrass and Rouse want to offer little explanation as they seem to be making it up as they go along.
Though we may have Damon and Greengrass, the plot to Jason Bourne tries to link itself to the original trilogy in as much of a jarringly clunky way as The Bourne Legacy. However, not only does the editing and directing not only not allow us to even give a thought to the plot holes, but do any of us see a Bourne film (or indeed any blockbuster) for the plot?
No, well if we do then that is just naïve and silly, but most of us will see it for the intense action and pure escapism. It has to be said that Jason Bourne does deliver on this front; it is basically two hours of pure carnage with a rate of editing that is so frequent and intense it is almost impossible not to leave the cinema with a migraine (I mean that as a complement). Greengrass certainly knows how to deliver intense action, and though we often have no idea why we have an action sequence, they are wonderfully staged and do look great on the big screen.
The acting is of course a minor footnote, and this time round Matt Damon has about three lines of dialogue and it is just his job to look extremely annoyed/ constipated throughout the film, and he does do an effective job. Meanwhile not only have they managed to get Julia Styles to reprise her role as Nicky (I doubt she has much else on), but get some big names such as Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Vincent Cassel. All actors are solid in their roles, but their characters are painfully generic and very much at the mercy of the narrative so much that everything they do and say becomes painfully predictable.
From start to finish, it does feel like the studio basically said to Damon and Greengrass (while holding a blank cheque), we do not care about plot, we just want action and profit. Well, I do not know how financially successful Jason Bourne ultimately was, but as a piece of cinematic entertainment it is two hours of loud and mindless, enjoyable carnage.
The inevitable return of Damon and Greengrass to the franchise certainly brings back the migraine-inducing visual thrills of previous Bourne instalments, but though Jason Bourne is great carnage-based fun, it’s lazy and nonsense plotting does render it forgettable and unsatisfying.