How many times can you tell the same story before it becomes tiresome? The answer is three, if the Bourne series is anything to go by, or four, if you include its spin off movie. Title star Matt Damon held off for nine years because Paul Greengrass held off, maybe they were onto something. Now both return with Matt Damon citing public demand to put the first dent in an otherwise solid film series. It wasn’t broken, but something tried to fix it I suppose.
Bourne is doing the Rambo thing, dealing with psychological trauma by getting himself beaten up in illegal street fights, although we don’t see where the money goes. Rambo donated it to the needy – can you match that, Bourne? No time for stuff like that in this movie, because old associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has gone and hacked the CIA and found some information that Bourne might find interesting. Some underwritten plot material about his father, which he cannot remember in full, therefore has to conduct clandestine meetings and evade assassins. CIA up and coming hot shot Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) wants to impress Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) by snaring both Bourne and Parsons with a particularly bold ‘Brackbriar’ weapon, Vincent Cassel, hunting both down.
By the end of the third movie, we had a satisfactory conclusion. Of course the trilogy was good so the appetite for another is there and there are ways to break out of a closed story, just pay a good writer to fix the problem. But Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass apparently just assumed that doing the same thing again would be enough. Bourne counter-ghosting his pursuers, in southern Europe, fighting them in Berlin, killing them in London and then heading to America where the suits in the control room start sweating (Tommy Lee Jones is the big corrupt nasty this time) as Bourne draws ever closer. This worked in the old movies, it was new, driven and exciting. Here, the motives behind Bourne coming out hiding are unconvincing and the methods have been seen before. This is a cynical rehash. There’s a distinct lack of purpose.
On the upside, it’s snappy and well paced and it once again takes aim at big government, big business and big brother. One trick that will not grow old is Bourne beating up and killing people we simply do not trust and this yet again proves superior to Bond’s outlandish yet overwrought nonsense. You can’t empathise with super villains in a spy movie much, but Tommy Lee Jones trying to shit on our freedoms as a bad guy is a decent sell. And the action? To me the shaking camera problem has improved but not much, it’s less of a shaking problem and more of an editing problem. You have all this fine practical stunt work, with cars smashing into SWAT trucks and such, only for some asshole and the director to make bizarre cuts and edits. They damn near ruin it with their ‘can’t see shit’ ‘methods’.
In the end, what did we really learn about Bourne in this movie? Practically nothing, except he may be slipping a little, it’s an average outing if you don’t mind repetition. The Bourne Legacy is a better movie for me, easily. Oh, and too much Vikander and not enough Cassel, they totally wasted him.