“Jason Bourne” Saves The Summer Movie Season With Intelligent Thrills
For a series with an amnesiac protagonist, the “Bourne” franchise has certainly stuck around in the public memory.
The series kicked off with “The Bourne Identity,” a story which chronicled the life of a seemingly normal man with severe memory loss who discovered his shady past in the CIA black-ops program, Treadstone. After the film became a bonafide Hollywood staple, replacement writer/director Paul Greengrass made “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” skyrocketing Matt Damon to superstardom and setting a new high bar for espionage thrillers.
Unsurprisingly, fans have been clamoring for a continuation of Bourne’s story. And while the Jeremy Renner led spin-off, “The Bourne Legacy,” tried to wet that appetite, it just didn’t feel the same without Damon or Greengrass.
Jump to 2016—9 years after “The Bourne Ultimatum” hit theaters—and the legendary Damon/Greengrass team have returned for a new adventure, this time simply titled “Jason Bourne.”
From the get-go, it’s clear that the title is meant to indicate that this movie is a much more personal story. Greengrass drives this home by starting the film in a bleak manner: our titular hero (Matt Damon), fully recovered from his amnesia, is living overseas in isolation. He only ever comes out in the light of day to compete in fighting rings where he brutally demolishes his opponents.
Damon’s near-silent portrayal as Bourne tackles new territory for the series. Now no longer on the hunt for his missing memories, he’s struggling to find his purpose in the world and, judging by the ever-present bruises on his face, is failing miserably.
His sad life of tranquility gets interrupted by a face from his past, former CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has new information regarding Treadstone…and Bourne’s father. Before she can share the information, CIA deputy director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Cyber Ops Division head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) catch wind of Bourne and Parson’s rendezvous.
In the middle of a riot, Dewey decides unleash deadly assassin “The Asset” (Vincent Cassel) who is working for a new program known as “Iron Hand.” I won’t give away any spoilers, but one of the purposes of the program is to take down Bourne, and Cassel’s encounter with Bourne prompts a badass motorcycle chase that sets the scene for the rest of the film. Paul Greengrass’s documentary-style technique (often derogatorily referred to as “shaky-cam”) creates a realistic feel that puts you right in the action.
The action choreography is so good in this sequence that I frequently forgot that these were fictional characters in a movie. I found myself worrying for Bourne’s safety and cheering when he got the drop on the CIA operatives tracking him. The energy of the chase sequence ultimately lead into a tangled web that I just couldn’t get enough of.
Jason Bourne’s quest for his final answers never fails to compel. Every frame of Greengrass’s film is more intense than the last, and the script is filled with an exquisite amount of twists, action sequences and character moments.
In fact, the relationships between the characters make the film. “The Asset” is the perfect adversary for Bourne, with Cassel giving an appropriately menacing performance with just the right amount of mystery.
Dewey, on the other hand, feels like, well, every other Tommy Lee Jones character, but that’s not a bad thing. His vaguely menacing delivery works especially well when the plot starts to hint there might be something more to his vendetta against Bourne than just taking out a threat to the American people.
In addition, Alicia Vikander is the perfect addition to the franchise. Her character, Heather, stands as a moral beacon that wants to change the CIA into something more representative of the freedom that the American people were promised. Vikander handles the headstrong nature of her character beautifully, and her interplay with Damon frequently steals the film.
Furthermore, her character’s insistence on freedom stands as one of many ways “Jason Bourne” is steeped in current political paranoia. Bourne considers himself a patriot, and Greengrass really hammers home how hard it can be to live in a nation ruled by fear.
A subplot involving Silicon Valley tech CEO Aaron Kallor (Riz Ahmed) really impressed me with how much it mirrored our current world and went that extra mile into providing immersion into this adventure.
Now, when the secrets of Treadstone are finally laid bare, audiences are bound to be divided. The reveal isn’t quite as flashy as one might hope, but I personally found it to be the perfect payoff to the themes of being manipulated by the institutions that are meant to protect us.
However, I doubt any audiences will have trouble agreeing on the sheer majesty of the final action sequence: a high octane car chase through the streets of Vegas that I’m still recovering from. Everything about this sequence works: Its visceral nature making you feel every crash, every increase in speed and every death defying jump.
If you remember anything from “Jason Bourne,” it’s likely to be this chase.
When the movie caps, the long-running saga of Jason Bourne is brought to a head and all mysteries are answered. However, the door is still left wide-open for another with an intriguing hook for a final installment which rolls right before the credits.
I couldn’t be more ready to see what Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon bring to the table next, because “Jason Bourne” soars as a smart, fast-paced, conspiracy thriller that’s just as good as the legendary original trilogy from which it came.
In a lackluster summer movie season, make it your mission to seek this one out. You won’t be disappointed with what you find.