Jason Bourne is back. And he remembers everything. Unfortunately for the makers of this super-spy franchise, so does the audience.
Nine years after director Paul Greengrass ended the dramatic action-packed trilogy in style, he returns with his amnesic protagonist Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). The film is the fifth instalment in the series, based on characters from Robert Ludlum's books.
The first three films (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) created a benchmark for spy thrillers with its thrilling story-telling. The audience followed the Central Intelligence Agency on its hunt for an ex-spy who goes on globe-trotting journey to discover his true identity and to expose the organisation's dirty secrets. The fourth film, The Bourne Legacy, which had Jeremy Renner in the lead role, is a parallel story to the trilogy and generally considered forgettable. Damon agreed to return to his beloved role for the fifth film that hit screens in India this week.
The story begins with Bourne, who has been “off the grid” for 10 years, making a living by taking part in illegal fighting competitions, in Europe. In the post-Edward Snowden world, the world is aware of the privacy-intruding ways of the American intelligence. Former CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), dons the role of a whistleblower, who hacks the organisation's servers to expose its inhumane black-ops programmes. But, in her pursuit to reveal something “bigger than Snowden”, she stumbles upon past files of Bourne as well as his father, Richard Webb and goes in search of Bourne.
CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and the head of cyber ops, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), realise that the duo could disrupt Ironhand (a total-surveillance programme that taps into social networks), and the chase is on.
High-speed pursuits, judicious use of gadgets and classic fights are a feast for the eyes, as Bourne is plunged into yet another journey of self-discovery, hoping to put an end to the CIA's black ops programmes. Although Greengrass's signature shaky camera tricks is one commendable revisitation, his decision to go the 3D way, this episode, seems pointless.
In terms of performance, Damon has reprised his virtually indestructible role with relative ease. His pin-point combative skills are testament to his iconic role and though it has been nine years since he last essayed the role, age does not seem to have caught up with Damon. (Although it should be noted that his pre-film feature, in which he gives a quick-fire 90-second recap of the previous films, seems to have more lines than his role in this film!)
The accompanying star cast also deliver the goods and do justice to their characters. Yet, the roles seem repetitive of the original trilogy, with Stiles, Jones and Vikander following the pattern of accomplice, nefarious intelligence chief and morally-conscious operations head, respectively. Vincent Cassel's role of a blood-thirsty, trained assassin follows in the footsteps of the other killer snipers of the previous instalments.
The storyline, despite its action-packed moments, plods on drearily and seems to have been made on similar lines of the trilogy. Even the chase scenes seem a bit excessive.
In terms of a regular spy movie, it is worth a watch for the cast's powerful performances and for action-aficionados. But the quality of Jason Bourne is a far cry from Greengrass's last directorial venture (Captain Philips). Because of the story's lack of creativity, Bourne fans will choose to remember the franchise by its first trilogy. Even the series' regular final track, Moby's Extreme Ways, couldn't make up for the lukewarm plot line.
In 2007, when asked if Damon would return for a fourth film, he responded in the negative stating, “We have ridden that horse as far as we can”. He was probably right.
Film: Jason Bourne
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles