Jason Bourne has surfaced again in 2016. In fact, he’ll always pop up in a world far smaller place nowadays, as technology will have you fear. It was only a matter of time. What’s curious to see is how in shape (though greyer around the temples) Matt Damon is at 45 years old – just compare him as the baby-faced boy assassin he was in returning director Paul Greengrass’s first installment with him, The Bourne Supremacy (2004).
Just titled ‘Jason Bourne’, the latest film tries to address just who is JB? Although this is the sub-crux of the other films, this one has a fond, nostalgic weariness to it, as though a less supple Damon/Bourne has been coax out of retirement to have another stab at finding out what the hell it’s all been about over the past 14 years. Will he/we ever know?
Basically, this time Bourne reappears in Greece – now a bare-knuckle fighter by trade, after getting word from fellow ex-CIA operative Nicky Parsons (the ever po-faced Julia Stiles as the data whizkid) that the Agency is up to its old tricks of starting up yet another black ops. In addition, news comes to light that Bourne’s real father was a heavyweight in the Treadstone op.
Bourne is firmly back on the Agency’s radar, hunted by former adversary, slippery CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his new protégé, ambitious high-tech guru Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Bourne needs to stay alive and get more answers, while avoiding being brought back into the CIA fold or being killed by the Asset (Vincent Cassel), a deadly assassin on his tail, packing a sizable grudge against him.
This is a film that could swing fan opinion either way. Some fans will revel in getting more of the same clean-cut, high-speed, well-directed/acted action – and it certainly does not fail to deliver here. On the flipside, it might appear very samey and almost ‘dated’, as current spy-action thrillers go. Sadly, a lot of films have since copied Bourne’s original style – including latter-day 007s, and there’s only so many car chases, city destruction, busy, dark operation hubs with fancy banks of screens and software downloads we can take before it screams ‘cliché’.
Although this Bourne embraces today’s risks associated with data security – with a interesting sideline plot about a digital-age billionaire, Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) who has allowed the CIA a hack to his social media software to collect what data it needs (and now regrets it), there are so many shots of downloading files that you wish for more scenic city-break shots to break up the tedium. That’s the problem with the latest; trying to balance delivering another spy-action flick while delving more into the psyche of a character – if we get too much Bourne dissection, it ruins the nature of the game, and his enigma is lost.
That said we can’t help but root for a ‘guy lost’. Everyone wants to know their past and it’s been years of searching and increasing the body count for us to be satisfied in stopping there. Damon is a distinguished – rather than embarrassing – mature action hero figure in this latest film, and actually, the ‘tiredness’ sort of mirrors the weariness of his character’s search – as mentioned before. In fact, does much change in the spy game? It’s just newer technology used to uncover/store the same secrets.
Bourne still has the energy it needs to get you – and its star – through to the bitter end. Greengrass gets more practice to perfect his art too, while we enjoy the ride. Like a long-suffering action hero with a past, we actually don’t want Bourne to disappear forever, or find out the punch-line. Hence, Jason Bourne can carry on searching and searching for a long time yet.