Matt Damon returns to his most sparse role in the unimaginatively-titled Jason Bourne, a movie that gives its star about a couple dozen lines of dialogue and is all the better for it (apparently, Damon made about $1 million per line here).
After Tony Gilroy’s just-fine Bourne Legacy, a spinoff starring Jeremy Renner, performed so-so at the box office, producers lured back both star Damon and perhaps more importantly director Paul Greengrass, whose Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum still stand as the standard by which these things are judged.
And Greengrass ain’t messing around here: Jason Bourne is a nonstop thrill ride nearly as relentless as last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and while the director seems to have toned down his frenetic camerawork here, the bam-pow kinetic editing is in full swing.
Either you’re with this kind of thing or you’re not, and Bourne 5 is just as good – maybe even better, at points – than the four films that preceded it until a protracted and entirely unnecessary action movie climax that sucks all the fun out of the previous 90 minutes.
This Bourne movie doesn’t just do the same thing as the previous ones, it does the same thing over and over and over again inside of its own two-hour running time: Bourne surfaces somewhere to get some intel, CIA goons swarm to capture him, and he mops the floor with them.
Rinse and repeat. First in Athens, then in Berlin, then in London, then finally in Las Vegas. For the globetrotting aficionado, there are also brief non-action scenes in Washington, Beirut, Rome, and Reykjavik.
What is Bourne after? He has recovered his memories after the events of Ultimatum, and now exists off the grid as travelling fight-clubber. But when Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) shows up in Greece and tells Jason that there are even more secrets he has to uncover, involving his father, no less, he’s back in espionage action.
That mean popping back up on the grid, and every time he does CIA head Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), CIA cybersecurity expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and a rogue Bourne-like super-soldier referred to only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel) are on his trail within minutes.
For most of the running time, this formula works perfectly, with director Greengrass’ relentless pacing driving the almost-nonstop action.
But then a funny thing happens. The plot resolves itself in perfectly satisfactory fashion in Las Vegas, but somebody apparently decided that wasn’t good enough, so we get one last, and completely perfunctory, action sequence that goes on way too long and the movie begins to wear out its welcome.
The CIA team has been confined to a few sets in Langley tracking Bourne for the past few movies, but what this one does especially well is detail the all-too-believable measures they take to stay on his trail, through tracking software, facial recognition and CCTV cameras, foreign police radio broadcasts, and even social media posts. There’s no hiding in 2016.
Up until the overkill final 20 minutes or so, this Bourne is a slam-bang ride that picks up right where Ultimatum left off and re-establishes this as a major action franchise. Just make sure to bring Greengrass and Damon back, next time, too.