Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) remembers. He remembers everything. He is also doing one of the things that he does most often: hiding. We see him as an underground fighter, ripped and captured in a lot of shots with lens flares.
Meanwhile, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is hacking into the CIA to get documents on their covert operations; documents that include information on Bourne and his late father. When Parsons contacts Bourne, he has to come out of hiding to take up arms against the government once again.
Inside the CIA, a green yet precocious new agent (Alicia Vikander) takes the lead on the hacked files, and thus on Bourne, under the authority of the shady CIA official Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones).
Thus sets the stage for Jason Bourne, the fifth installment of the Bourne franchise. The synopsis sets the stage for many moving characters and plots, although in the case of this addition to the series it feels like there is little room for the narrative to move forward. The intrigue of Bourne not knowing who he is or how the government wronged him now absent, Jason Bourne tries to reset with new corrupt figures in a way that feels done before.
In particular, the narrative throughline involving a Silicon Valley start-up is less intriguing than the film wants it to be. It retreads political thriller plot points that have been done before, and it doesn’t feel needed to tell the film’s story. If there is dead weight to be found in the film on a pacing level, it is with these scenes involving the tech mogul.
Of course, these movies are ultimately not about narrative substance (although the superior films in the franchise do have quite a bit of it). They are instead about fast talking, fast movement, and lots of steadicam action.
This action starts in earnest during the Syntagma Square sequence. It is well-staged with an adequate amount of disorientation. This scene sets the stage well in terms of narrative stakes and intrigue. A later scene involving Bourne meeting an ex-CIA agent is similarly well constructed in terms of building tension.
Other than this, though, the film fails to reach the same level of previous films when it comes to tension and intrigue in action sequences. It still handles pacing impeccably well, as the other films in the series have done (save for perhaps The Bourne Legacy, which lags more than the rest). However, it does so be adding extraneous (and expendable) characters in order to make each scene independently interesting.
Given Bourne is a well-established and progressed character, it is no wonder that Damon’s talents fit like a glove around the character this time around. Who really steals the show, though, is Tommy Lee Jones. His laconic and gruff naturalism fits squarely with the role.
Vincent Cassel, too, is superb, although his character “The Asset” is given less to do than one would expect given his antagonistic role. His character is comprised of a lot of looking down the sights of a rifle and slow snarl-faced stalking.
Vikander, while certainly bringing more to the role, is also relegated to a character below her talents, one that is too expository throughout the bulk of the film. Only near the end does she finally get out of the dark, interminably blue CIA bunker and into the thick of it. Even then, though, her character feels like one of those extraneous moving pieces.
The film as a whole may not meet the same standards as the original trilogy of Bourne movies, but Jason Bourne still provides a handful of scenes with an adept restraint when it comes to intensity, building up tension deliberately until the final moments. As an action movie, there are certainly enough action set pieces to sink one’s teeth into, even if the narrative follows traditional routes.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)