Director Paul Greengrass and titular star Matt Damon return for Jason Bourne, the fifth installment in the franchise, and the fourth focused on the man himself. We catch up with Bourne some 10 years into his life on the lam. He’s dispassionately clobbering other men in illegal brawls. And as diversionary tactics go, it’s working well, he’s blocking out the truth of his life and his struggles. Then Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) resurfaces and pulls him back into the life of intrigue. She’s found what she believes to be the thread that will unravel the mysteries of Jason’s past, and she doesn’t have it in her to leave Bourne in the dark.
Call it the old “Just when I thought I was out maneuver,” that’s fair, but the old trope works as well here as it does in every successive Mission Impossible film. It’s great to see Matt Damon back in rogue assassin mode, so much so that it’s even nice to see that signature Greengrass blend of shaky cam and speed.
This time out the international intrigue finds the CIA in bed with a social media mogul and as ready to do whatever it takes to protect their secret as ever. Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander join the cast as the less-than-subtle metaphors for the old and new schools of the CIA. Jones slips easily into a string-pulling menace vibe, but Vikander proves the far more interesting non-Bourne entity to watch. That enrapturing expressiveness that brought her on to the map in such a big way last year does wonders for her in a role that’s largely comprised of emoting at surveillance technology of assorted varieties. The picture ultimately sets the stage for more, and I’d be lying if I said anything other than “I will 100% watch a Jason Bourne v Heather Lee tête-à-tête sequel.”
The franchise is advancing with technology admirably. The power and access Vikander’s Lee is able to asset in seconds is mindboggling to contemplate, particularly in that a good bit of it seems feasible. But here’s the one big hang-up. Everyone who works for, or has ever worked for, the CIA in this movie is only capable of TEXTING IN ALL CAPS. Presumably, this is for legibility, but when you’re texting on the sly in the middle of a life or death situation, are you going to bother with any caps at all, much less make the extra tap to initiate caps lock? Sorry pals, it just doesn’t seem likely. But, if that’s the most overt technology strangeness happing, you’re still doing a far, far cry better than the time that a young Peter Parker used Bing search in The Amazing Spiderman. Seriously, do you even Google, bro?
Now, to be fair, action really isn’t my genre. Few actioners really hold my attention, but I have always enjoyed the Bourne series. The trend continued here, but that didn’t stop my mind from wandering during a particularly lengthy, climactic chase scene. For me, the Bourne franchise is at its best when it is a chess game. I love the intrigue and the maneuvering and the jet-setting. The spycraft is great and the creative kills are lots of fun. I don’t begrudge the film some pure action sequences, but this is one area where a bit of brevity wouldn’t go awry.
Jason Bourne may not prove to be the greatest entry in the Bourne franchise, but it has that vintage Bourne feel and plenty of talent to help it along.