Nine years ago, after the 'Bourne Ultimatum', Damon and director Greengrass called it quits on the franchise claiming there was no more story to be told, leaving the studio with a cash cow franchise and no-one at the helm. Gilroy's 'Bourne Legacy', an ill-received attempt at a spin-off, was enjoyable, but just not the same. So what led Damon and Greengrass to revive 'Bourne' now? And is it any good?
'I remember. I remember everything'.
With those words, the Bourne franchise no longer centres on an assassin with amnesia, but how he deals with his identity in a new, changed world. After more than ten years underground, Jason Bourne (Damon) resurfaces when he is found by ex-agency operative Nicky Parsons (Stiles), who tells him some new information about his father.
His reappearance causes the CIA to go on a manhunt looking for him, led by CIA director Robert Dewey (Lee Jones), whilst cyber security chief Heather Lee (Vikander) has ulterior motives to keep him alive.
With a further asset (Cassel) holding a personal vendetta against Bourne, the cat and mouse chase continues through Berlin, Greece, London and Vegas.
The first thing to note with 'Jason Bourne' is that it feels very familiar. This could be seen as both a good and a bad thing, but like meeting an old friend, you can easily pick up where you left off, even if it was 9 years ago. Unfortunately, 9 years ago was where they left the character of the Jason Bourne we knew and loved. Although carrying his name and the guilt of his past, the Jason Bourne in this film lacks complexity and any real character. His motives are therefore unclear, rendering the plot to be super thin.
Despite the relevancy of the themes of cyber security, surveillance and privacy, the subplot of Deep Dream and Project Ironhand are merely context to Bourne's 'hunt' for answers surrounding his father. The two coincidentally collide in Vegas, where again, traditional fighting and a solidly gripping car chase lead up to the climax, and those topics are very much left behind and unexecuted.
As a result, the movie felt rather piecemeal, with country hopping, action sequences, and tension techniques a tick box exercise in the 101 of How to make a Bourne movie, totally forgetting plot. It was nonetheless gripping, thrilling and enjoyable, and like I said before, 'familiar'.
Matt Damon- Jason Bourne
Alicia Vikander- Heather Lee
Julia Stiles- Nicky Parsons
Tommy Lee Jones- Robert Dewey
Vincent Cassel- Asset
Matt Damon is true to form though lack of character development makes him just a mean fighting machine, devoid of real motive. Julia Stiles, a staple in the Bourne franchise, will surely be missed. However, Vikander brings a dynamic new character to the table, with great complexity.
'Jason Bourne' is an enjoying thrill ride that takes us back into the world of espionage and the character of Bourne we knew and loved. Though slightly formulaic and thin on plot, there is great suspense, action and the potential rebirth of a franchise.
Unfortunately, what drove the first trilogy was the character of 'Bourne' himself, but here, everything and everyone drives him. Perhaps, in this new technologically advance world of social media, hacking and technology, something could arise to stir that character further. Because for sure, this franchise needs it.
Going forward, we're left with the unresolved pieces of this movie, and three important characters. Bourne, CIA exec Heather, and Deep Dream's CEO Aaron Kalloor. Whilst 'Jason Bourne' doesn't drive any particular umbrella story arc, creating a 'chapter' of three movies dealing with these central themes and characters could make for an interesting trilogy. They just need to give Bourne a reason to get involved, and simply making him 'come back' to the agency will not suffice. We already have 'Bond'.