Back by popular demand, apparently. Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass swore they wouldn’t return to the Bourne franchise, and yet audience enthusiasm eventually made them think twice. Jason Bourne, the fourth in this lucrative amnesiac assassin series loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s novels (not counting 2012’s tepid Damon free spinoff The Bourne Legacy), doesn’t really contribute anything new. Yet even though all the plot elements are essentially reworked from previous films, the result is a solidly entertaining, well-acted and directed spy thriller.
Admittedly, attempts have been made to bring the Bourne series up to date by including social media guru Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), who is in bed with the CIA under the directorship of Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Dewey wants a cyber back door into Kalloor’s new social media project Deep Dream, despite Kalloor’s insistence that users have total privacy. Elsewhere Greek austerity riots are used as a backdrop to Bourne’s (Damon) initial meetup with Nicky (Julia Stiles), who has uncovered yet another sinister black ops programme, along with further nuggets of information about Bourne’s past. Yet despite this, the suspense is considerably less nerve-shredding this time, mainly because of a pervading been-there, done-that, looked-through-the-telescopic-sight vibe. One friend of mine quipped that he played Bourne lingo bingo whilst watching this (“Living off the grid”, “Activate the asset”, “Bring him in or tie it off”, “You have no idea who you’re dealing with!” and so on).
All that said, Greengrass directs the efficient thrills with his usual shakycam flair, and like other films in the series makes good use of real locations – principally Athens, Berlin, London and Las Vegas. Performances are all good (including Alicia Vikander who has a key role as Heather Lee, Dewey’s sympathetic but ambitious deputy), and as ever John Powell’s driving score works well, as does the familiar blast of Moby’s Extreme Ways (in yet another remix) over the end credits.
In short, Jason Bourne isn’t in the same league as the earlier films (The Bourne Ultimatum remains the high point), but it is an enjoyable, well-made thriller that ticks the appropriate boxes.