Jason Bourne Is Exactly What We Were Expecting—And We’re Cool With That
Believe it or not, nine years have passed since Matt Damon’s last Bourne movie, but you’d never guess it from the new film’s kinetic opening. If you need to catch up, do that before you leave for the theatre because Jason Bourne immediately plunges viewers into new territory. In the nine years since The Bourne Ultimatum, JB has been splitting his time between heavy-duty brooding, bodybuilding, and shady underground fighting. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) brings him back into the fold after stealing all kinds of top secret files related to Treadstone—the black-ops program that got Bourne involved with the CIA in the first place—and a disturbing new program code-named Iron Hand. This information raises troubling questions about Bourne’s father (Gregg Henry), motivating him to quit the UFC (or whatever his macho subculture calls itself) and figure out what’s really going on.
Of course, life is never that simple for Bourne. In addition to seeking answers, he spends most of the film implausibly evading capture and/or attempts on his life. The primary aggressor is a French hit man (Vincent Cassel), who takes his orders from CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), a deeply corrupted lifer who may have the knowledge to put Bourne’s paternal anxieties to rest. In an effort to make sense of the increasingly technological world around him, Dewey collaborates with young operative Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and attempts to control Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the mastermind behind a massive social network known as Deep Dream. In keeping with CIA movie tradition, Aaron eventually goes rogue himself, forcing Dewey and his hit man to divide their energy between two targets.
As you can tell from the (heavily abridged) plot synopsis above, Jason Bourne is yet another densely-plotted narrative in a series that seems concerned with telling a good (if familiar) story. Like many Paul Greengrass films (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93, Captain Phillips), Jason Bourne flirts with issues of weight and substance, but ultimately backs down from the political complexities, preferring to put its emphasis on blockbuster thrills.
On the level of visceral entertainment, Jason Bourne is an undeniable upgrade on The Bourne Legacy (the placeholder spin-off made without Damon or Greengrass), particularly during an impressive opening sequence that lasts somewhere in the neighbourhood of half an hour. Ultimately, the relative credibility of the issues in play—if not the human behaviour—lifts this film above the escapist level of its fellow summer blockbusters, but the time has clearly come to reinvent Bourne’s context. As rehashes go, this is a worthy revival of a still-reliable franchise, but the finale hints at something even better: a film that dares to cover new ground.
Jason Bourne opens in theatres everywhere today. Trailers always seem fast-paced and action-packed, but this is the rare movie that matches—and even exceeds—the urgency of its trailer. In other words, if you like the trailer, you won’t be disappointed.