When The Bourne Identity was first released in 2002, it was hailed for its gritty grounded action and fight sequences, choreographed to brutal perfection and carried out beautifully by Matt Damon. It kept this throughout the original trilogy and made Bourne into a force to be reckoned with when it came to spy films and action sequences. This is kept in the latest installment which stars Damon who has teamed up with Paul Greengrass once again. They both famously claimed neither would do a film without the other, so they have returned, together. Nine years after surviving Bourne Ultimatum, we see Jason having flashbacks whilst on his way to an illegal fight where bets are placed and big guys are pitted up against bigger guys. It’s soon after this during another bought, he meets Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who brings him back into the firing line with new pieces of information she has acquired.
From the start, it’s classic Bourne. The fight scenes are kept intimate and harsh, with the camera moving close in, shaky enough to feel immersed into the action, not so much that you can’t understand what’s going on. With the storyline veering towards Bourne’s past (or David Webb’s if you prefer his real name) going back to the days which lead up to the start of Treadstone, it feels more personal than ever so it’s fitting that we see more of Bourne’s skill set. There’s something to be said about how consistently original the fight scenes look in all of the Bourne films. Using a pen as a weapon, disarming police officers without meaning to, beating someone with a book or rolling up a magazine to smack his opponent before blowing him up. Some may sound ludicrous however, it’s not that he’s killing them with these items, it’s that fact that he’s a smart enough character to know how to distract them. It’s knowing how to use them and what effect they will have is where he stands apart from the rest. Bourne is like a Swiss army knife, all the utensils you can ever think of, but instead of being attached to him, it’s everything around him which he uses as a weapon.
Whilst this had lot of the signature Bourne attributes (people trying to find Jason with tech and surveillance, sit down meetings talking about him, close up fight scenes, car chases although lacking a Mini) the atmospheric feeling you had with the previous films just wasn’t there and it’s primarily down to the performances. There’s a host of new characters including Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee, a person hell bent on getting Bourne to come in, Robert Dewey the CIA Director played by Tommy Lee Jones who is right amount of Tommy Lee Jones and the right amount of angry man out to stop a mistake from the past. Whilst Jones brings enough to the role that he needs to, Vikander feels very underwhelming. Her performance is more robotic than her role in Ex Machina. Vikander’s mono tone delivery of every single line left her character as a one dimensional version of the much better Pamela Landy, portrayed by Joan Allen in The Bourne Supremacy. Damon was as good as always, Stiles was painfully under used and only served as a way for Bourne to have a reason to return to the world of espionage. Ato Essandoh who played Jones’s character’s right hand man Craig Jeffers is mostly there to deliver lines for the trailer and talk about Snowden a couple of times. Very clumsy references which are painfully shoehorned in. One actor who you can always rely on is Vincent Cassel who played a character known only as Asset. This is literally what he was. Brought in to take down Bourne, he is one of the few saving graces of this film. Bringing a quiet violent performance which Cassel is used to be now, the fact that he’s called Asset bring a consistent air of mystery to him. This is what you call good writing.
There is a problem with the pre-finale car chase is very much all guns blazing and a huge disappointment mostly due to where it takes place and it’s at this moment you realise that the grounding of Bourne has been taken away, which is a real shame. Throughout this film, there are new fight scenes to enjoy, in particular the final scene, bike and car chases which aren’t exciting enough and a storyline which, whilst good, is ultimately a revenge plot that goes wrong a lot of the time. Bourne is supposed to be in hiding, no one has heard from him in years, then why is it that he keeps looking back and into the camera of those trying to take him down? Bourne is like a superhero fighting his enemies with his fists, under a fake identity and trying to allude the authorities. However this outing feels more Man of Steel than The Dark Knight.
3 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.