Bourne to be wild.
By Louis Balzani
Posted 12:46 am on Aug 17, 2016
WATCH THIS IF:
- You enjoyed any of the first three Bourne films.
- You need your fix of high-octane action.
- You can tolerate the breakneck, jumpy editing the series is known for.
WARNING: Plot spoilers for Jason Bourne follow. Read at your own risk.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Jason Bourne. After The Bourne Ultimatum ended the original trilogy on a resounding high note in 2007, attempts to continue the franchise via The Bourne Legacy largely fell flat. That movie was missing the two core elements that a good Bourne adventure needs, namely the rapid-fire editing and Matt Damon himself. This time around, both of those elements have triumphantly returned, so not only does Jason Bourne feel like a proper entry in the series, but it’s also a solid action film in its own right.
Bourne films really place their emphasis on visceral action and a breakneck pace, and the newest entry adheres to that formula tightly. Once it gets going, the film really never takes its foot off the gas, location-hopping and hurtling through its story as quickly as it can. This quickly becomes the movie’s primary hook – it and its characters are more or less constantly in motion. This helps the film remain watchable and engaging throughout, though it does sometimes come as a detriment; as you warm up to the relentless pacing, most of the middle section ends up feeling a bit like hurried filler, packed with token chases and exposition built to tide you over under the next location change or massive setpiece.
Speaking of massive setpieces, the film really opens the throttle in two key sequences: a riot in Greece and the climactic chase through the Vegas strip. These locations provide a legitimately massive canvas of destruction that the film joyfully takes full advantage of – motorcycle chases through chaotic streets and a SWAT vehicles barreling through traffic elicit some serious thrills. Longtime franchise director Paul Greengrass wrangles the chaos and scale of these sequences masterfully, and the intricacy of these scenes cannot be overstated – they make the film worth the price of admission by themselves. The series’ trademark hyperactive camerawork and editing both feel a bit more under control this time, though some viewers will likely still find it too frantic. It is a shame that the giddy intensity of the Vegas strip chase ultimately leads up to a low-stakes, by-the-numbers fistfight in a dark tunnel, but that’s about my only complaint there.
The plot itself serves, in part, to re-introduce Bourne into our tech-heavy society; he’s been off the radar for a while, and a lot has changed. One of the story threads focuses on a Facebook-esque social media company, which runs an exceptionally popular (and vague) “platform” and its corresponding “service.” New CIA Director Dewey wants to tap into the service and further bolster his surveillance capabilities; of course, the company’s young, hotshot CEO refuses to play ball, and this leads to the film eventually getting up on its soapbox to preach about the dangers of our online world. This conflict, among other things, draws Bourne into yet another entanglement with the CIA while he unravels even more about his checkered past. The expected double-crossings and shady dealings ensue, so although we’re not exactly breaking new ground here, there’s just enough going on to get the movie across the finish line.Bourne films are typically pretty straight-faced affairs, but even by those standards, this one’s quite dour, and it shows in the cast’s performances. Matt Damon triumphantly returns as Bourne, with even less to say and even more ass to kick. It’s tough to describe, but there’s something about this series that makes Damon absolutely magnetic as an action star, and he’s a joy to watch here – you basically want him on-screen all the time. Tommy Lee Jones schemes his way through as Director Dewey, a typical no-nonsense, whatever-it-takes type of character. Alicia Vikander remains calm and collected throughout as a CIA higher-up with cloudy motives of her own. Vincent Cassel exudes passable menace as the Asset, a character important to Bourne’s past, but apparently not important enough to get an actual name. I won’t fault the film for setting its jaw so firmly – a jokey, lighthearted Bourne movie wouldn’t make much sense – since, aside from a few questionable line readings, the whole affair comes together pretty well.
Ultimately, Jason Bourne the film closely resembles Jason Bourne the character: serious, resistant to flashiness, and occasionally explosive. What the film lacks in emotion and narrative, it makes up for with gritty and intense practical action sequences; for some, that should be more than enough. As we wrap up another summer season of CG-heavy blockbusters, it’s refreshing to see a high-stakes project like Jason Bourne take the opposite approach. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a good, old-fashioned action movie escapism, so I had a really good time with this one – and if you give it a shot, you just might, too.