Reviewing the latest installment of the Bourne series has been a true test of my journalistic integrity. Does one stand by one’s convictions and make clear ones true thoughts of a once beloved series? Or does one submit to rose-tinted nostalgia just this once and simply enjoy the ride. If you’d like that phrased in a non-faffy sort of way, it would read thus: I am torn by Jason Bourne (convenient and unintentional rhyme).
As you may have deduced from that opening paragraph, I have a pre-existing love of the Bourne movies. They revolutionised the action-thriller, to the point where even Bond has tried and failed to emulate the action and suspense of the series. And this latest installment is, simply put, an continuation. If one was to depict quality on a line graph (not that I would ever reduce artistic representation to mathematical simplicity), Jason Bourne would be a perfectly horizontal line. It’s been almost a decade since the last installment (Sorry Jeremy Renner) and the formula is still just as good as it was. But next to nothing has changed.
The action set-pieces in this film are, as one might anticipate, edge-of-seat exciting. The opening action in the Athens riots is particularly sublime, putting Bourne and his adversaries in a state of chaos which really adds to the tension, and the final showdown in Las Vegas is suitably climactic. But these are, sadly, just set-pieces, in that the plot does relatively little to connect them.
The plot of this film, such as it is, is definitely where this film’s biggest weakness lies. The story begins with a revelation uncovered by Nicky Parsons, a former CIA analyst who Snowdens her way into CIA black ops files to discover that the programmes that made Bourne who he is still exist. Then Bourne, or rather David Webb, discovers that his father was involved in such operations, but was terminated by the CIA. Oh and there’s some nonsense about the CIA teaming up with a discount Mark Zuckerberg in order to enhance their surveillance. Yes. That is an actual plotline of this film. I suppose the producers where trying to do a similar thing to Bastille Day, which is to try to modernise their franchise by throwing social media at it and showing a complete lack of understanding as to how it actually works. These films sell themselves on their grounding in reality, and it is completely absurd that a link between a massive social-media giant and the CIA would even be attempted let alone actually executed.
Of course, its not all old news. There’s some new characters this time around, instead of simply recycling Joan Allen’s character ad nauseam. Alicia Vikander makes for a suitably Machiavellian head of Cyber Ops (the best choice for hunting someone down), and Vincent Cassel’s ex-Treadstone assassin tasked to bring Bourne down is very exciting to watch and a worthy adversary to Matt Damon’s tired and spent Bourne. The problem, with Cassel’s character in particular, is that these are characters that this series has dealt with before and we ultimately know how their stories end without having to watch them.
Ultimately, Jason Bourne is another Bourne film; nothing more or less. The foot chases, car chases, fist fights and stunts are all still just as exciting as before and will certainly get the adrenaline flowing. They even brought Moby back to do the closing credits. But having been stripped of his driving motivation, one wonders what purpose Bourne has any more, and his journey isn’t supported by the overarching plot, which as we’ve established is a complete shambles. If you’ve enjoyed the series thus far, then you will get a kick out of Jason Bourne, because it’s effectively more of the same. But don’t expect it to break new ground, because it won’t. The only things broken in this film are bones, promises and speed limits. Just like the good old days.