It’s been nearly 10 years since the last time that Matt Damon stepped into the Bourne franchise with 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. There was a huge amount of excitement and anticipation, but for myself also a little apprehension because that first trilogy were some of the greatest action films ever and have revolutionised both the spy and action genres.
And it is so important that both Damon, and director of Supremacy and Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass, came back. Without them the series hit an exceedingly middle of the road action film in The Bourne Legacy. I cannot stress how important Paul Greengrass is to the Bourne franchise. He is certainly one of those responsible for the rise in shaky camera and fast cuts in action sequences. The problem is that if you’re not a excellent director it can just become extremely hard to follow. Greengrass however uses it to bring a brutality and realism to the fight and chase sequences, but I always still feel like I know what is going on. And the action in Jason Bourne is a really high point. The film has two or three truly fantastic set pieces, which are great to watch, especially on the big scene. The sequence in Las Vegas and the one in London are both great watches. They have great action, and are both superbly directed.
As I said, alongside Greengrass, the return of Matt Damon is another big returning player for the franchise. His performances as Jason Bourne/David Webb have helped make this action franchise a cut above mod other action franchises. It’s not a performance where everything is on the surface, instead it’s an understated and subtle performance, but it’s still very powerful. You also completely believe him as an action star, which is important because sometimes it is hard to get both aspects; good performance and action chops. And he is certainly a credit to the franchise, he’s back, and back at top form. There’s a scene with Tommy Lee Jones’ character where he just explodes, and it’s fantastic to see this emotion that has been simmering under the surface come out.
But Damon is alone. There is also the returning Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons from the first Bourne Trilogy. Tommy Lee Jones plays the Director of the CIA, whines assisted by Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee. Jones really fits the bill as the shadowy agent in charge of hunting down Bourne. Whilst Vikander got a bigger role than I thought she would from the trailers, she does a good job, although isn’t close to her performances in Ex Machina or The Danish Girl. Meanwhile Vincent Cassel plays the assets who the CIA has hunting Bourne. Much like Jones he fills the roles you’ll know from the earlier films well, although no one will touch Karl Urban’s character in Supremacy.
However, this is a film that actually falls a fair way short of the first three Bourne films. And it does so for one reason, the story. This is actually the first Bourne film that hasn’t been written by Tony Gilroy and I think that it shows. Both Bourne’s personal story, which tackles why he signed up to the Treadstone program, and the wider story dealing with a new CIA program Ironhand just aren’t that interesting. The only way they connect are really a single character so it doesn’t flow as well as the any of the original trilogy films. Paul Greengrass clearly wanted to tell as story about online surveillance, but it is just a little dull, and the scenes that focus on this drag a little. This doesn’t make Jason Bourne a bad film by any means, but it does make you wonder what the point of the sequel is past making money, and it just disappoints a little when compared to the original trilogy.
I’m certainly not going to slate Jason Bourne, because it is a cut above most action films you will see, and has some fantastic set pieces. But if you’re hoping for a film that lives up to the brilliance of the first three Bourne films, then I think you should prepare to be a little disappointed, as I got a touch bored at times. I’m not adverse to the idea of more Bourne films in the future, but I think they should look to get Tony Gilroy back alongside Greengrass and Damon.