After the rather underwhelming Bourne: Legacy I can only assume Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon also saw it and did not want to have their franchise finished with a stain on it, so they went and did something about it. The self titled ‘Jason Bourne’ (hereafter called Bourne 5 to avoid confusion) sees Bourne once again off the grid and attempts to deal with all the info he found out about himself at the end of Ultimatum in a way that is probably not sanctioned by a health professionals, but soon is back in the thick of it after being drawn back out by a figure of his past and in turn is now on the path to uncover more about Treadstone and the higher ups in the CIA that are involved in other black ops programs.
That synopsis of the plot may sound familiar and that is because it is essentially the same as every other Matt Damon Bourne film except for a few additions in personnel, and by far this is the biggest problem. There is nothing wrong with playing it safe when it comes to films, millions are at stake and there are enough interested parties to fill a life raft who want to see it succeed, but now we have had 4 films of playing it safe. In the Bourne Identity we had an ‘anti-Bond’ style action hero who was well trained and practical in getting what he wanted, often only using people as a means to an end. It was fast paced and had a backstory with an air of mystery about it, the ideal place to start off a franchise and start world building. Subsequently what happened is that in each other film we got the same old white guy ‘patriot’ villain, the same quiet and efficient (but not quite as efficient as Bourne) assassins, the young females who take a vested interest in Bourne and a bit more of the story revealed but never completing the picture in any satisfying way. Bourne 5 goes down this path and lacks any originality, resting on what made it’s predecessors enjoyable instead of taking a single risk to elevate the franchise to the next level. There is even a moment from the opening 30 mins that is lifted right out of the Bourne Supremacy in set up,tone and execution, it’s difficult not to think that creativity was not high on the priorities for this film.
The casting is solid and brings back an old face in Julia Styles but adds Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Vincent Cassel in the main roles that interact most throughout the film. Damon is about as Bourne as Bourne can be again, his face mostly emotionless, he’s bigger, stronger and still uses his fists as effective communication tools. The rest fit into their familiar roles well and do a fine job in either being an antagonist or aiding the protagonist. The only problem there was was the inconsistency with Vikander’s character. Without spoiling any plot points it is clear that her character was meant to be obscure and for the viewer to make up their own mind about her motivation, the problem was that she was never given enough to do to be inconsistent enough to make you as a viewer think Who’s side is she on?’. All that comes across is someone that behaves illogically with what has gone on.
The strongest element to the film is its adherence to go bigger with the action, the set pieces clearly have a bigger budget this time around and once again it is the chase sequences that provide the most entertainment. There is a motorcycle chase near the beginning where director Greengrass does a real good job in creating tension alongside showing how far surveillance tech has come since the last film. There is a good use of meandering through the streets and allies of Greece and all that was missing was a trademark Bourne ‘disappear behind public transport’ moment to escape.This scene as well as the final insane car chase set themselves apart from the rest and are hugely entertaining, the only thing there needed to be more of was some well choreographed hand to hand combat as we are treated to only one such scene.
Bourne 5 proves to be a a bit mixed bag, for every scene we come to know and love Bourne for there is a plot hole or a stupid decision made by a character and without any new content to focus on. Ultimately if you like the previous Bourne films there is plenty of shaky cam, chase scenes and conspiracy stuff to get stuck in to, and if not then it is easy to see the flaws throughout.
This installment in the franchise is very much a Bourne by numbers affair. The film is definitely stronger with Greengrass and Damon back at the helm but a reluctance to take a risk and do something different holds it back from elevating it from its predecessors. Fans of the franchise will most likely enjoy the familiar plot and action, it will however do nothing to convince anyone who is not a fan that it isn’t just a run of the mill action film .