Bourne is back, and this time it’s personal.
The 3rd Bourne movie (The Bourne Ultimatum, 2007) was intended to be the last of the trilogy – the clue is in the title. Jason (Matt Damon) jumped in the river and was washed away into the tide of time. That was that. But Hollywood couldn’t leave well alone, and dug up the franchise with Jeremy Renner as a non-Bourne in The Bourne Legacy, which was of interest to virtually no one.
And that would have been that, but director Paul Greengrass and Damon decided (or were persuaded?) that there was more mileage in the title, and so the new Bourne film was born. At least they didn’t call it Bourne Again.
We find the eponymous hero making a living as a bare knuckle boxer on the border between Greece and Albania (well, why not?), and predictably beating the shit out of all and sundry. Meanwhile, Niki Parsons (Julia Stiles) is hacking into the CIA database and pinching top secret files, including those that relate to Bourne’s origins. Elsewhere (CIA headquarters, Langley), bright young Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is trying to impress her boss Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), the Director of the CIA; while he in turn is doing a shady deal with Aaron Kallour (Riz Ahmed), the head of Deep Dream, a hugely successful tech company that will allow the surveillance systems access to its users.
Keeping up? Don’t worry if you’re not; the plot is just an excuse for a lot of action – car/bike chases, punchups, shootups, and people following each other while being watched by satellites and other technical equipment. Everyone always knows where everyone is, but it doesn’t seem to stop Bourne from remaining blow the radar.
Although the concept that Jason Bourne was originally a poor man’s James Bond is hardly original, the roles have been somewhat reversed since Robert Ludlum first invented the character in book form in 1980. Passing swiftly over the fact that Richard Chamberlain (!) played Bourne in a 1988 miniseries, the fact is that when Damon first took on the Bourne role in 2002, the Bond franchise was in pretty poor shape, and it is hardly a stretch to suggest that Daniel Craig’s rebooting of the character was an attempt to match the toughness of The Bourne Identity.
The big difference between Bourne and Bond has nothing to do with fighting skills, but their fundamental approach to their work. Bond is essentially an extravert, a man who likes to show off his skills in public, and has more than a trace of poseur. Bourne, by contrast, is forever disappearing; he likes to operate in the shadows and then pull his baseball cap over his face and slip away. There’s also absence of bimbos, which is an added bonus.
The great skill of Paul Greengrass is his ability to take current events – in this case, the demonstrations in Greece, surveillance issues and the dominance of hi-tech companies, and weave the action around them. This gives the illusion of contemporary significance and political relevance; whereas the film is simply an action movie, edited, scored and shot with a huge amount of skill to generate maximum adrenalin input. Apart from the fact that bad guy is the head of the CIA (and Jones leaves us in no doubt that he is not to be trusted), this is no more subversive than Spectre.
It’s good to be see Damon-as-Bourne back in action, a little greyer, a tad more troubled, but still able to outwit, outfight and outmanoeuvre anyone and everyone.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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