The titles of the various Bourne films have felt like a proper succession of escalating tension. “Identity.” “Supremacy.” “Ultimatum.” (Let’s ignore the Jeremy Renner-starring Bourne Legacy, like everyone else.) So how do you top The Bourne Ultimatum as a title?
You don’t, apparently. Which is how we end up with Jason Bourne.
Like the lack of imagination behind the title, there’s a bit of a weariness that surrounds the world of Jason Bourne these days. By this point, Bourne knows most of his past, and he’s determined to live life off the grid as much as possible. Mainly, that means taking part in some sort of fight club that seems wildly one-sided. But when Bourne is contacted by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) – the former CIA agent who steadily went rogue over the previous films to help Bourne – with some important information from the CIA labeled “Black Ops,” Bourne is thrust back into the crosshairs of the CIA, namely CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and CIA agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Dewey wants Bourne eliminated, but Lee wants Bourne brought in as an asset.
As far as the story goes, there’s not much more ground for this series to cover with Bourne himself. The story attempts to invoke online privacy and other Snowden-related topics in setting up a new government conspiracy, and it doesn’t feel wildly different from what the series was doing nearly a decade ago. That said, Jones brings his gravitas and Vikander is a interesting new lead, taking a different approach than previous female CIA agents in this particular series. Lee’s clearly a better person than Dewey, but she’s not exactly a saint herself.
Far better, though, is the action. There are a handful of stunning action sequences, topped off with a car chase through the Las Vegas Strip that’s more rough-and-tumble than anything this side of Mad Max: Fury Road. Even outside of the car chases, though, there’s plenty of solid physical action, and Damon’s still as capable of throwing a punch as he was nearly 15 years ago. On top of that, director Paul Greengrass knows how to let these action sequences flow at their own paces; the first big one, set in Athens, moves at a pace that’s methodically slow, and it creates an inevitable sense of tension that a lesser director might have just rushed through.
So when it comes to Jason Bourne, I’m of two minds. On the one hand, Matt Damon can still kick ass, and Paul Greengrass can capture that phenomenally. That alone makes another Bourne film with these two worth watching. But the story, for all the work the actors do, doesn’t connect in the same way. There has to be a new direction for this series to take, but I’m not sure what that is, and the film doesn’t quite suggest where that might be, either.