Paul Greengrass returns for the fifth film of the Bourne Identity franchise. Having done a terrific job with numbers two and three of this series, he has been brought back to infuse new life into some very popular films. I am a fan of this series, even the last one, to a lesser degree mind you (but still worthy of a look), that featured Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross. Aaron Cross was another recruit piecing together his past, despite nefarious forces all around, trying to kill him. Renner is a fine actor and did the best he could with the material, but Matt Damon has created and molded the big screen hero of writer Robert Ludlam’s novels to be his very own character. Brave, resourceful and resilient, Damon’s Bourne is an enigma, but one that audiences have become attached to. Jason Bourne, as a film, is no exception. Despite the story being a bit clunky in spots. Jason Bourne as a film offers some terrific action sequences and Damon, as always, shows up to play for keeps.
Living in the middle of nowhere, bare knuckle fighting for money. Jason has kept a low profile. That is until Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) for some reason decides to infiltrate a hacker’s haven in Iceland and download some sensitive material regarding the government programs that deal with Jason Bourne. No real explanation is given as to why Nicky would put herself in such danger over this, but okay. We accept this on face value or go home. The remainder of the film is Bourne, again, staying one step ahead of the authorities as he makes his way back to Washington D. C. to finally settle the score with the new CIA director, Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his new right hand assistant, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Throw in a subplot about Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) starting up a new community website who is in cahoots with Dewey and a series of flashbacks with Jason’s father (Gregg Henry) and we have enough to justify the chaos that ensues, but after a while I started to have that been-there-done-that vibe.
The whole subplot involving the Web developer and Dewey seems like a stretch, for starters. I mean, this is the federal government we are talking about here. They can snoop all they want and they don’t need Facebook or any other website to help them do that. I also, found the subplot involving Jason’s father just flat out dull. We have not seen his father through any other film, to this point but we are supposed to care about him in a couple of thirty second flashbacks? These are really unneeded distractions, but fortunately, director Greengrass knows what people want to see in a Jason Bourne film; top notch action and fight scenes. On this level Jason Bourne delivers. It is a solid action picture with some amazing action set pieces that payoff. Damon, as usual, shows why he is such a fine actor. He commits to the role and is tremendous as Bourne. Alicia Vikander is also very solid as Heather Lee. She is either a friend or foe of Bourne and Vikander is quite cool and cagey as she plays both sides of the fence. This is a character they can really explore and bring some depth to the franchise.
Tommy Lee Jones channels his usual no nonsense, “Fugitive” delivery to make his character interesting enough for this film, but he is not really breaking any new ground as a character. As is the main hit man, or Asset, as he is referred to, played by Vincent Cassel. He is a bastard and that is about it, but he is never really explored that much as a character. All we know is Bourne needs chasing and Asset is the guy to do it. If he can kill Bourne, too, then he gets an extra day off after the weekend. I am kidding, of course, but Cassel’s character is really that shallow. Cassel does what he has to do to sell this character, but his character is your pretty standard baddie. I did, however, love John Powell and David Buckley’s dynamic score for the film. Powell has scored the first three Bourne films and created a constant theme for Bourne as a character and as an identifiable whole for this franchise. This is David Buckley’s first scoring of a Bourne film but his contributions are exemplary, as well. This is a hybrid of electronics, percussion and orchestral arrangements that gel exceedingly well.
Writer Robert Ludlum wrote some terrific novels with the Jason Bourne character. Ludlum died in 2001, sadly before the first film was released. As these films go, Jason Bourne is not as strong as the first three, but better than number four. Thanks largely the action, score, Damon and Vikander all showing up to play hardball. Ludlum, I think would be pleased with Hollywood’s treatment of his creation. This film knows what it wants to do, has some misses, but what it does, it does very well. Why not take Jason Bourne for a spin?
Jason Bourne – ***1/2 out of 5
Jason Bourne – Rated PG-13 for action, violence, some language, adult situations
Jason Bourne – Run Time is 123 minutes
Jason Bourne is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.