It’s always a challenge to bring back a beloved character or series after it has been lying dormant for so long. Some have succeeded (“Mad Max: Fury Road”, “Toy Story 3”), some have failed (“TRON: Legacy, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”). It is a heavy feat, to both please fans and honor the originals, and to come up with new stories to tell. It has been the death of so many great properties.
The next franchise to attempt to drink the Hollywood elixir of life is that of Jason Bourne, an extraordinary action saga revolving around an international, government-hired assassin, the titular Jason Bourne. This character has been brought to life by actor Matt Damon, in one of his best roles, nailing the intensity and physicality of Robert Ludlum’s famous secret agent. He works the drama as well has he does the fast-paced action set pieces, with raw emotion and grit.
But Damon only deserves a portion of the credit for the popularity of the franchise. The rest goes to Paul Greengrass, a powerful director with a panache for thrilling hand-to-hand fight scenes and car chases. He directed both “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (“Identity” was helmed by Doug Liman), and both were fantastic action films. He also directs the new addition to the pantheon, this one unimaginatively titled “Jason Bourne”, and wouldn’t you know it, has produced a consistently entertaining, well-made, thrilling, albeit unoriginal, action film.
This is what we need after Tony Gilroy’s “The Bourne Legacy”, starring Jeremy Renner, which was hardly even a Bourne movie, both because Bourne wasn’t the main character, and didn’t feel like Bourne. It was boring and dialogue-heavy, sacrificing Greengrass’s signature high-octane action for lagging espionage jargon. I’m glad Gilroy finally found success in 2014’s “Nightcrawler,” because “Legacy” did not bode well for his career. So, I believe fans of the original films needed a movie like “Jason Bourne,” which reminded people, including me, reminded what I loved about the Bourne films. Unfortunately, this means that this new picture takes very few of its own risks, taking most of its style at ideas from Liman and Greengrass’s previous films in the franchise.
So, in this film, Damon is back playing Jason Bourne, with one slight change. He remembers everything of his past, an advantage Bourne did not enjoy in his previous adventures after being struck by insomnia. But now, a new mystery arises for our hero, and he partakes in his usual globetrotting methods, with suitingly no-nonsense fashion. But he is also being tracked by a CIA operative (Alicia Vikander), a nefarious government executive (Tommy Lee Jones) and a ruthless hitman known only as The Asset (a wonderfully intimidating Vincent Cassel.) There’s also something about a new social networking site, but it’s pretty unmemorable. As you can see, ol’ Bourne’s got a lot on his plate.
Damon is great as always, bringing his intensity and toughness to his role, effectively moving through high-speed chases and fight scenes, all selling all of it. Damon is around 40 now, and we believe all of his badass action in this film. Vikander is also good in the film as this operative always on Bourne’s tail. She is a real threat to this seemingly unbreakable hero. She is one of the top rising actors of our age, and has shown that she can hold her own in yet another type of picture. “Lee Jones, on the other hand, unlike Vikander, has been going down in performances, popping in and out of films, without adding much to them. Fortunately, like Vikander, he is also good in the role, but nothing great.
However, Vincent Cassel is a delight. As The Asset, he is scarily rough and tough, a crack shot with a gun and a real threat in a fistfight. He may seem old at first, but Bourne soon learns not to underestimate this force of pure hardened skill. Cassel brings menace to the role, warning any man challenging him to step aside, or else.
The action’s also pretty non-stop. The picture opens with a breathtaking chase with the fascinating of a riot in Greece. It’s about ten minutes long, and holds your attention for every second. It’s one of the best set pieces of the entire franchise. Bourne weaves and winds at incredible speeds through the crowded speeds, with Lee Jones and Vikander in a control room tracking him, and The Asset hunting down him down. It’s a brilliant piece of action. The film also has other chases, a couple of brutal sequences, and some moments of true suspense.
Even with its color-by-numbers plot and ideas, “Jason Bourne” is eternally watchable and enjoyable. Again, this what we needed from this film to reintroduce us the Bourne we know and love. I hope that the inevitable sequel will be more distinguishable. But it’s good to know that this the Bourne we will have: fast, exciting, and an absolute blast. Strap in.
Final Grade: B+