thu 14/12/2017

Jason Bourne | reviews, news & interviews

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne

Bourne to run (and run and run)

Existentially imperilled: Matt Damon returns as Bourne

When Matt Damon's Jason Bourne makes his introductory appearance, as a bare-knuckle boxer somewhere in the lawless Greek-Albanian borderlands, it speaks volumes. Bourne is severely muscled-up, but he looks older, wearier and existentially imperilled. You could say much the same for this belated franchise addition, which is bristling with technology and intensely-detailed action scenes, but struggles to find much that wasn't done better, or more purposefully, in the earlier films.

Not least because the previous Bournes seem to be on permanent heavy rotation on ITV2, you're haunted by déjà vu. There's a fantastically destructive car chase more than slightly reminiscent of one in The Bourne Supremacy, from which Bourne casually walks way after a battering that would have crushed an entire tank regiment. There's a motorcycle pursuit in Athens by no means dissimilar to the one in Tangier from The Bourne Ultimatum. The pursuit scene in London's Paddington Basin is like the Waterloo sequence from Ultimatum moved a few miles across town. Bourne also gets to take another ride on the Eurostar (maybe that's why Matt Damon was urging Britons not to Brexit). The familiar throbbing, minor-key background music is present and correct (as is Moby's "Extreme Ways" over the closing credits), and they couldn't even resist that hoary old standby, the overhead landscape shot with the caption "Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters, Langley, Virginia" typing its way across the screen.

Story-wise, director-screenwriter Paul Greengrass and editor-screenwriter Christopher Rouse plunge us back into the swamp-like murk of the CIA's off-the-books operations. This time the action is kicked off by a computer hacking event at an Agency station in Iceland, perpetrated by rogue agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Evidently appalled by the skulduggery and deceit she has witnessed, Parsons is giving it the full Edward Snowden and threatens to upload details of a catalogue of CIA operations (Blackbriar, Treadstone et al) to the net. She has also uncovered stunning revelations about Bourne's father and his career at the Agency, which naturally pique his curiosity.

The sequence where she and Bourne meet up in Athens, playing cat-and-mouse with the CIA's increasingly incredible super-surveillance (if it was this good, terrorism would no longer exist), is the biggest and most bombastic set-up in the film. It's located amidst a full-blown riot in which protestors fight running battles against platoons of padded and helmeted cops, and while it's an astonishing feat of complex, split-second action film-making, letting it run for 40 minutes was wildly out of proportion. Instead of doing all that, maybe they could have developed the Parsons-Bourne back story – they had an affair of some sort back in his programmed-assassination days – but the opportunity is ignored.

Also parachuted in from recent newspaper headlines is a social media entrepreneur who has allowed himself and his customers to be compromised by the security services. This is Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), creator of the Deep Dream platform, whom we see first being hailed as a tech-messiah by his adoring acolytes, then being verbally roughed up by charmless CIA honcho Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, pictured above, filling the obligatory sinister-old-bad-guy-from-the-past slot). The Agency gave him start-up money for Deep Dream, but now they're demanding payback in the form of all his confidential user information. Yet all this mysteriously leads nowhere.

It feels like the film is searching for reasons to be relevant rather than being driven by any urgent imperatives of its own. The problem, of course, is that the series has outrun the original Robert Ludlum novels, and now that Bourne has gone through the Agency and come out the other side (and has his memory back) nobody knows quite what to do with him.

Except perhaps ambitious young CIA operative Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander, pictured above), who makes a bold (yet utterly implausible) bid to advance her career by bringing Bourne back in from the cold. With tedious predictability, the ending is a blatant setup for the next instalment. 

@SweetingAdam

They couldn't resist the overhead landscape shot with the caption 'Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters, Langley, Virginia' typing its way across the screen

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Average: 2 (1 vote)

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