2016; directed by Paul Greengrass; adapted by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse; 123 mins
Look at Matt Damon‘s face in this movie and see how far he has come as a movie star and as a screen presence since The Bourne Identity. In Identity, he is a blank face, totally unaware of his past and so his casting was perfect, helped by the fresh face Damon had back then when he was still very much seen as a pretty-boy rather than an actor. Now, 14 years have past, we look at Jason Bourne and he has weight on his shoulders, not just due to his being built like brick shithouse but because of the traumas we have seen and those we haven’t.
We find Bourne keeping a low profile as a bare knuckle boxer in Greece. Meanwhile, in Reykjavik, Nikki Parsons hacks into the CIA’s database and discovers a link in Bourne’s past to Treadstone, quickly making contact with him in Athens. Unfortunately, CIA head, Robert Dewey and Cyber Ops leader, Heather Lee are onto her and the stage is set for an inter-continental chase to take Bourne, dead or alive.
Crunch time: is it as great as the original three? Not quite. That may be to do with the fact that we know now what to expect with a Bourne film and that the first three so defined the 2000s that the impact is somewhat lost. Nevertheless, this is miles ahead of the competition and is everything you (I) want from the series. The action sequences are pulse-pounding, the characters are real and the world is ours! When Ultimatum came out in 2007, social media was still in it’s infancy. Here, they’ve grabbed the bull by the horns and have a major plot thread be the arrival of a new social media phenomenon, the ESP of which is it’s unprecedented privacy settings. The series has kept up with changing times and whereas before Bourne had to be careful of surveillance, 9 years on, advanced technology means he only has seconds available before his enemies are onto him.
It hits the beats you expect from the franchise but gives us twists too. The cast is typically classy but having Vincent Cassel play The Asset seemed an odd move for such a great actor. Thankfully, he is given a lot, lot more significance in this story. Riz Ahmed as internet entrepreneur, Aaron Kalloor and Alicia Vikander as Lee keep you guessing as to how clean they are.
The title is a clue to the film’s style. It’s stripped down. For the first 30 minutes, we are thrown into the melee and any dialogue is just instructions and information, relayed in as few words as possible. It’s spare action filmmaking, in keeping with Paul Greengrass‘ news documentary background. With a key chase sequence set during a riot in Athens, this is the closest Greengrass has got to Z and he honours that 60s euro-thriller perfectly. Again, Bourne’s world is ours and most of the action is set in the alleyways and backstreets, with Bourne keeping to the margins.