It is an exciting time for Jason Bourne’s enthusiasts; the new film about the skilful super-spy is back again. Howbeit, this arises one particular question: why would Paul Greengrass- known for his box-office hits such as The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy and Captain Philips- and Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy, The Martian) come to a decision to join their forces again for yet another chapter of the Bourne franchise? In 2013, Greengrass hinted that he would not return to direct any further films on the subject of Jason Bourne; in the latest interview for the New York Times he even stated that he “certainly didn’t expect to ever come back and make another one.” After a series of meetings and dinners with the studio, producers and Matt Damon, Greengrass comprehended that “This could actually be fun.” Hence, with enough time on his hands and the Universal Studio’s $120 million, the filmmaker sat down with his friend and a film & television editor Christopher Rouse, and concentrated on writing a screenplay together.
Jason Bourne is a direct follow-up to The Bourne Ultimatum; after a decade of being undetected, Bourne (Matt Damon) resurfaces somewhere in the middle of the Greek- Macedonian border, where we see him “bare-chested”, ready to take on a muscular rival in a street fight. Will he be able to knock him out? Sure he will, the good old Jason is still puissant and “a force to be reckoned with.” From the very beginning of the film, there is a stirring collection of action scenes, beginning with a set in Athens during violent riots against austerity measures imposed by the Greek government, where Bourne gets caught in the middle of a riot, with delinquents hurdling patrol bombs at police. While staying in the Greek capital, he secretly meets with Nicky (Julia Stiles) to discuss his involvement in the project, as well as his past and further plans in destroying the agency. Predictably, they are immediately haunted by the government’s Asset (Vincent Cassel), who is sent to assassinate the agents. Bourne’s motorcycle escape – in the heart of the city – is one hell of a ride, intensive and superbly cut with Damon driving like a madman. Yes, the whole sequence was probably done in the green room, but who cares; this is Jason Bourne, right? Unfortunately, the excessively lengthy police pursuit slightly buries the storyline; I as a viewer wanted to know how he ended up in Greece in the first place and what happened to him while being under the radar. This wasn’t the only time when these questions popped up while watching the film.
Naturally, Bourne IS all about powerful action and haunting car chases with a few fist fights thrown in; but – for the first time – all of it overshadowed the narrative. It feels like certain scenes were taken straight from The Bourne Ultimatum: “Yes, I remember everything”, “Yes, I know who I am”; we are all glad that he knows who he is, but the audience is left with no more than that.
The pace of the film is fast; it moves from Greece to UK, then to Las Vegas where the biggest Bourne course of action occurs. Greengrass decided to introduce new characters such as Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee – an ambitious young CIA agent; Tommy Lee Jones as Robert Dewey – a two-faced CIA Director; and Ato Essandoch as Craig Jeffers. They – with a great composure – serve the exact same purpose as the Agency’s individuals in the previous Bourne saga: they all want to capture or kill Jason Bourne.
You might ask yourselves: what is new about Jason Bourne’s story, then? The answer is that there is nothing truly fresh about it- apart from a great assemble of new faces and their impeccable performances (Riz Ahmed as a CIA cyber specialist and Cassel as the villain) – but there is no sufficient storyline concerning the protagonist. And where there are glimpses of one, it seems that Greengrass did not develop it well enough for us to understand it fully – the director adds superficial details on Bourne’s father but the audience is – again – left without any clear explanation; as a viewer, this made me frustrated while watching the film. Clearly, not having Tony Gilroy on board might have added to the film’s problems; his engaging scriptwriting has- most of the time- been all-inclusive (without any gaps or unclear stories), and that is where Greengrass’ and Christoper Rouse’s script is lacking; there is no real substance in it. The film seems to try to make up for its lack of sophistication in writing by pumping in wild action scenes – which might be just perfect for adrenaline junkies out there. As Matt Damon said, “There’s a lot of force and energy that will be on display”, and he was right!
Julia Stiles has been outstanding when it comes to her characterization of Nicky, while Matt Damon always makes a fine lead; with reprising his role once again, he has definitely thrilled many of us; he still has a James Bond-like toughness in him. Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of a CIA agent works very well as she gradually shows that she is capable, defiant and also dangerous. Tommy Lee Jones has always been an actor with a tremendous talent; nevertheless, he is somewhat average in this new production; seeing him in yet another ‘Law Enforcement’ type of a role will make a person yawn.
Jason Bourne – with Christopher Rouse’s spotless editing, mind-boggling sound effects and excellent performances – is an action packed thriller. Unfortunately, there is no sense of relief when the film ends, since we are left with a dozen unanswered questions. I guess we will have to wait for another adventure of Jason to find out more about Robert Ludlum’s spy. Greengrass’ latest work does not surpass the previous Bourne films; however, it is definitely worth seeing for its jaw-dropping car chases – particularly the one involving a S.W.A.T vehicle – and for Matt Damon himself.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Universal Pictures