Jason Bourne, 2016.
Directed by Paul Greengrass.
Starring Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Tommy Lee Jones, Ato Essandoh, Riz Ahmed and Scott Shepherd.
Jason Bourne, now remembering who he truly is, tries to uncover hidden truths about his past.
And like that, we find ourselves being beaten to a bloody pulp once more by chiseled anti-hero Jason Bourne. Nine years after his last punchy outing, sentient beef cake Matt Damon returns, literally punching his way across Europe. Now remembering his true identity, Bourne finds himself back in and amidst the sinister government programmes he so desperately tried to escape. All this as CIA Director Robert Dewey (played with a level of growl only Tommy Lee Jones can achieve) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) attempt to track him down.
Unlike many a blockbuster director, Paul Greengrass, an adept documentarian – seems to encourage physicality; fight sequences look convincingly bruising, car chases have a real-world threat. The film simmers with this uncomfortable, at times unforgiving physicality until the credits roll.
Opening on a grand chase through the Greek riots and ending on a car chase through Las Vegas that would make the Blues Brothers blush, Greengrass clearly decided to dial everything up to 11. It’s a case of bigger is better. The opening Greek-set sequence is at times awe-inspiring, as if the cast and crew accidentally found themselves shooting during actual riots while that final car chase of which the logistics must have caused many a nightmare, stands as one of the greats. At a time in which Hollywood action cinema yearns for fast cuts and bombastic CGI, there’s unbridled joy in Jason Bourne’s reliance on the real world.
Although defining modern action cinema-just look at the gritty reinvention of Bond – the Bourne series has always felt as if somewhat out of place. Maybe it’s the out-and-out pessimism of the whole affair, Bourne rarely flinches when tasked with murder and villains appear to be of the real world. Even the more recent Bond films, supposedly more real world than fiction find James infatuated by larger-than-life, manically haired psychopaths.
Much like the previous installments, Greengrass seems totally incapable of clichés. At times, it may nod its head towards typical action cinema tropes-the big nasty, murky pasts, mysterious father figures-yet he surrounds them with moments of drama rarely apparent in the sort of film with a budget of sub-100 million.
Newcomer to the franchise Tommy Lee Jones, following in the grizzled footsteps of Joan Allen and Brian Cox, finds himself on (now rare) good form, playing the morally ambiguous CIA Director with a strange creaky charm. The ever impressive Alicia Vikander, grappling with an accent that might be American or maybe English, in a lesser film would be relegated to simply eye candy is given a role with significant meat. Yet it’s again on Riz Ahmed to impress most, playing tech superpower Aaron Kallor with a skittish, Mark Zuckerberg-esque sensibility. So impressive in Nightcrawler, it was only so long before his ascent to the mainstream, and in a film with top, top performers, there’s a strange pleasure in his scene stealing. Julia Stiles however-one of few constants from the very beginning of the franchise-again finds herself scrambling to find a place amidst the mania.
Long are the days of Damon the misunderstood outsider with that rogue-ish charm so effective in Rounders and Good Will Hunting. Damon plays Bourne with less charm, but a vulnerability that hints towards something far more real.
In a summer of truly disappointing blockbusters, Jason Bourne stands tall. Heartfelt, moving and intelligent while being the sort of action film that gives you second-hand bruises. A truly superior blockbuster.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★