By Jack Dignan
It's been 14 years since Matt Damon first appeared on screens as the super-spy Jason Bourne, and it's been 9 years since his last appearance as the character in The Bourne Ultimatum, which was undoubtably the high point of the trilogy. Fans were begging for Damon to return, but it looked like it wasn't going to happen, especially since Universal tried to kickstart the franchise again with Jeremy Renner back in 2012. It didn't get the most positive of responses, and so, not too long ago, a new Bourne movie came into development, and this weekend sees its release. Ignoring the terrible title, Jason Bourne is back, and his latest mission is a lot of fun.
Bourne has been off the grid for a number of years now, and in that time he's managed to remember all the memories he lost before the events of the first film. He knows his past, his choices and what got him here, and he's not awfully happy with what's been going on. But there's something about his past that he doesn't know about, and this something is discovered by former ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). With Bourne after answers, he comes out of hiding, and this puts him in the CIA's spotlight. Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) are put in charge of either taking Bourne in, or, if he isn't compliant, taking him down.
Jason Bourne is without a doubt one of Matt Damon's most well known characters. The Bourne films, over the 14 year history, have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, and in each installment, Damon's performance just continues to get better and better. With Jason Bourne, he's fantastic. I don't think he cracks a smile once in the entire film, and his dialogue is certainly limited, but he nails the action and the dramatics, and he feels like a damaged man looking for information. Thanks to his stella performance, Bourne's persona is abundantly clear and bounces off of the screen.
The character of Bourne has always been fascinating, and now that he's gotten his memory back, anything goes. The first three films are brilliant, and part of that was seeing Bourne interact with people without having any memory of who he once was. Seeing him put together the pieces of the puzzle was rather entertaining, and while that whole mystery is behind him, he's just as badass as ever. One of my biggest issues with the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, was that they spent too much time focusing on the CIA than on Bourne, and for the first twenty minutes it seemed like they were going to do the same thing here. Thankfully, once Bourne got to do something, and finally speak, this film kicked it up a notch and Bourne was well and truly back.
Also in lead roles are Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones. Both characters, while familiar, had me invested in their stories. Neither of them screamed with originality, but whenever they were on screen, I was hooked, especially with Vikander's character. Aside from Damon, Vikander was the best thing about this film. The problem with Jones' character is that, for a lot of his screen time, he's interacting with a character played by Riz Ahmed. Ahmed's character added very little to the plot, and while I like him as an actor, his character bored me, and whenever he was on screen I was begging for them to return to Bourne's story.
That being said, when it does get back to Bourne, it's pretty much non-stop thrills. Full of action and tense street chases, Jason Bourne is an exhilarating ride. Paul Greengrass once again uses his famous shaky cam, and while it's effective in some cases, others it is not, making the action occasionally incomprehensible. Still, for the most part, the action is insane, particularly a chase sequence towards the end that's just off the charts cool. I had a blast with this movie, and this is mostly thanks to the action, which is a big step up compared to the previous films.
To sum up, Jason Bourne finally sees the return of the iconic Matt Damon character and to brilliant results. It's an action packed thrill ride with fantastic performances from the leads, especially Damon and Vikander. The plot could use some work, especially a sub-plot involving Jones, but other than that, this film is quality entertainment.