“Jason Bourne” Movie Review


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     It’s hard to believe director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon waited 9 years to team up for another installment in the “Bourne” franchise, especially when considering the lucrative returns of their last collaboration, 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum”.  This isn’t to say Jeremy Renner’s chance at expanding the “Bourne” universe in 2012’s “The Bourne Legacy” was a series low point, but Greengrass and Damon had clearly established a unique momentum at the conclusion of “Ultimatum”.  And if they had thought at the time there was more story to tell, perhaps the duo should’ve launched Final Draft on their computers and got to writing.  With nearly a decade having now passed, their latest entry, “Jason Bourne”, will introduce the character to an entirely new core group of fans and will hope to lure back those who helped make the series popular as it unfolded between 2002 and 2007.

     Greengrass has in no way lost his touch for delivering the kind of hyperkinetic, pulse pounding thrills he injected into the series after taking the reigns from Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”),  and helming both “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum”.  If you know Greengrass’ work, then you’re already aware he basically invented the concept of close up shaky camera work (What some would refer to today as strapping on a Go Pro.) coupled with quick cut rhythmic editing that somehow seems to put the audience into the scene with the actors and allows them to experience the chaotic rush of his eye popping action sequences.  When this is combined with a now well established protagonist in Matt Damon’s title character, one can see why the filmmakers decided to go back to the well one more time.

     Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has apparently spent most of his time off the grid since the last time we saw him.  Now somewhere in Greece participating as a combatant in an underground bareknuckle fighting circuit, you can see the wear and tear on his now forty plus year old body, not so much from a physical standpoint, but from an emotional one as running and hiding in complete anonymity has clearly taken a toll.  If you’ve seen the excellent documentary “Citizenfour”, which chronicled in real time the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden to the press that indicated the United States was engaging in illegal surveillance around the world, then you’ll right away understand where Greengrass and his co-writer, Christopher Rouse, looked for inspiration in order to bring Bourne back into action.

     Bourne’s CIA running mate, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), contacts him with information obtained from a recent hacking of CIA files that dig deeper into his past and identify the origins of the Treadstone program even further.  The files also contain plans for a new program called Ironhand, which is the brainchild of CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and entails a new level of internet surveillance that could infringe on the privacy of anyone with a profile.  The script follows the standard Bourne playbook in both narrative structure, as well as the lead characters and their functions within the story.  The initial hack of the CIA files is tracked down by Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), an ambitious CIA analyst who steps into her Pam Landy (Joan Allen) like role quite nicely, functioning as the character responsible for how and when the story moves from scene to scene.  

     When Parsons and Bourne meet on the streets of Greece during a massive conflict between demonstrators and police, Dewey and Lee monitor them from a control room at the CIA, but have a team on the ground, including a CIA assassin referred to throughout as the Asset (Vincent Cassel) who tracks the duo via rooftop as if he’s stalking prey.  The sequence is a masterwork in action choreography, editing, sound design, and musical score as it builds an unbearable amount of tension and suspense for nearly 20 minutes.  This is to be expected from Greengrass, but it still amazes me how creative he and his team are with the setting and the ability to pinpoint action within a scenario that rightfully could’ve had its own film but here functions more as a grueling and fiery obstacle course.

     Ultimately, the story centers around the new Ironhand project in which the CIA and Dewey have been working with a Jobs/Gates type named Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed who is currently starring in HBO’s “The Night Of” as well.), whose company Deep Dream has debuted a computer platform that promises privacy, but is being internally monitored by the CIA for illegal surveillance purposes.  All of this is merely a sideshow however.  Just a reason to pull Bourne back into the spotlight since the hacked files the CIA so desperately want out of Bourne’s hands contain information on the Ironhand project, but also the Treadstone project that is the actual reason for Bourne’s motivation.  When the action moves to a Deep Dream convention in Las Vegas, all of the interests converge at the Aria Hotel with every character seemingly playing all sides within a web of double crosses and new found revelations.

     Since I have lived in Las Vegas for over 33 years, it was difficult to watch how the final act of the film unfolded.  Mostly because the climatic action sequence, a massive car chase down the Las Vegas Strip, suffers from the usual continuity issues seen in films like “Con Air” or “Showgirls”.  In other words, the now imploded Riveria Hotel isn’t across the street from the Bally’s Hotel, nor does it make any sense for the Asset to be meandering around the Plaza Hotel downtown when his target and all of the other characters are at the Aria Hotel.  Of course I realize very few will even notice those inconsistencies and to give credit where it is due, Greengrass delivers yet another rousing finale, but I still believe the sequence in Greece at the beginning of the film is far superior.  And the story remains open ended as well, so maybe we have a final film in the future that will combine the talents of both Damon’s and Renner’s characters for one last battle against the evil lurking within the intelligence community, while giving Greengrass another opportunity to wow us with his style and energy.  GRADE: B