Matt Damon was adamant that he did not want to star in future Bourne films. This type of reluctance, and then performing a U-turn, has become a regular standard in Hollywood. I sometimes think that this is a ploy so that the hype materialises into something cosmic when the U-turn is performed. Sylvester Stallone wanted Rocky to be left alone until he released Rocky Balboa in 2006, and after that made an identical statement. Then behold Creed (2015), where Rocky returns and seemingly passes the torch with the same tagline: “I feel the character needs to be left alone now”.
Essentially Matt Damon is doing a Rocky Balboa. He last starred in a Bourne film in 2007. Nine years is a long time to leave a character behind and then reinhabit it, especially after refusal to be a part of the fourth in the series. Jason Bourne was last seen swimming down the East River after the exposure of Blackbriar documents. We now see him years later looking quite rugged, older but grittier with rough edges. You can remove the fourth film from history. This is the fourth film and Matt Damon wants you to know that. But did he succeed?
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Well, it has been 10 years since Jason Bourne walked away from the agency due to a range of complexities which I am sure you’ll understand. This is not like Rocky Balboa. If you have not watched previous Bournes, then catch up before watching this. CIA director Robert Dewey wants Bourne dead after the news of his return. This is due to former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finding him to reveal data on new black-op missions. There is also vital information about his past that he does not have knowledge of yet. Robert assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to track and bring him down. Bourne finds himself back in the firing line again after years of silence and as always wants to track the truth.
This new instalment provides everything you expect from a Bourne story. It continues to move and flow between action scenes whilst providing vital information in a concise and direct manner. It is clear that the ingredients for a Bourne film have not changed and this provides a head-spinning, post-Snowden cyber thriller. Let’s be honest, Bourne is not the most fun personality, but you understand him. He is more sombre in this but due to knowing the story you can hardly be surprised. The way he moves through crowds, action scenes, fighting scenes is still uniform to the previous films and dramatically impressive. Matt Damon may have aged but Bourne is still as strong and free moving as ever, and the effective nature it provides on-screen is first-rate. The story is interesting as well. You are immersed into the intricacy of the narrative and the corruptness of the CIA. As an audience, you feel you want more to be dug out from the deep dirt of the government agency.
And perhaps the ingredients do not need to change drastically; like the ever producing James Bond series why change something that works and that continues to bring audiences to the cinema to enjoy what Bourne has to give. The reunion between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon provides a pulse rating and interesting thriller. A part of me expected this new instalment to fail, however what they have managed to do is re-open the story effectively without ruining the series to make a healthy continuation. This new phase in Jason Bourne’s life could work and it has effectively opened up a new series that could be followed. Alicia Vikander’s character Heather Lee is an interesting one, and I expect her to feature and play an even more important role in the future. She held the role well and is the most unpredictable and second most interesting character within the narrative. She slots in well and you cannot help but look forward to the importance she brings.
The film does draw negatives. There are no real twists and turns, and any revelation is nothing too concerning or shocking. I feel the storyline could have had a real turn of events, but you are left with a scene to scene thriller where you more or less know where it’s going to end. There is a suspicion that they created a new storyline that was safe and easy to continue to test if there is an appetite, which is fine, however I needed risk taking and felt I got a predictable narrative in the end. Also, the revelations are nothing new to the Bourne story; this instalment does not unearth any new conspiracies. It’s pretty much a rehash of the previous, a summary to the first three. Whilst this niggles your mind it is entertaining and it brings this realisation that you can never get enough of Bourne.
Overall you get what you asked for and that is a Bourne film that brings all the aspects that work; impressive actions scenes, pulsating fight scenes and multiple drops of information that keep you on edge. This instalment makes you believe that it is possible to extend the story without it getting boring – that is if there are any future films… oh come off it, there will be. It’s blatantly obvious. We are now in an era of the “Jason Bourne” series and not the “Bourne” series and that slight change of wording is what the new era entails; a grown up and tired Jason Bourne that gets it done. As long as they keep the core of the production team and try to take some risks with the story then they should be able to pull it off.