“It’s started again – a new program ‘Ironhand.’ It’s even worse than before,” says Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who has reconnected with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in Greece to warn him the CIA is back to training assassins like he used to be in the latest installment in the Bourne action film series, Jason Bourne.
After years living off the grid Bourne is contacted by Nicky who, while working with a blogger/journalist, has stolen proof via secret CIA files that the agency is once again training assassins to kill anyone they want regardless of reason. Nicky has also reached out to Jason because she has discovered some hidden truth’s about his father and the CIA. She knows deep down Jason wants to learn the truth about what happened to his father and why he volunteered to become the most lethal killing operative the agency ever had.
During their quick but informative meeting, Jason realizes that Nicky is being hunted by some of the agency’s operatives. The two friends once again team up to try and get out of Greece alive. Their objective is to make their way to Parson’s blogger associate to expose what the CIA is doing and to allow Jason to finally know everything about his past.
Action-packed and with a strong cast, Jason Bourne is a worthy installment in the assassin-on-the-run series but falls short of introducing any interesting characters or in unveiling a surprising backstory. It’s nowhere near as good as the first film, 2002’s The Bourne Identity, or the third film, 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, which is this critic’s personal favorite. Damon is once again perfect in the role of Bourne. He owns the character and knows exactly how to play him, just as Sean Connery owned the role of Bond back in the 1960s. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else portraying this character and in fact it appears the idea of Jeremy Renner taking over the franchise (which was the setup for 2012’s The Bourne Legacy) has been abandoned, with director Paul Greengrass and Damon now back in the Bourne fold. Damon also got back into great physical shape to portray the mid-life ex-assassin who has been living in rough remote areas as an underground prize fighter to make a living and survive.
Julia Stiles is solid as Nicky the young woman who abandoned the agency after realizing what they turned David Webb (aka Jason Bourne) into and how they hunted him as he fought to find the truth out about himself and regain his humanity. Parsons eventually became Bourne’s second most important ally and the two actors once again click on screen as they join together in the best chase sequence of the film.
Alicia Vikander is effective as hungry and ambitious CIA officer Heather Lee, the right arm of the CIA Director Robert Dewey. It’s clear she has her own agenda in hunting down both Bourne and Parsons and seems to be willing to play any and all sides to get what she wants from the agency. It’s unfortunate that’s where her character’s development ends. Vikander’s Heather Lee is not even in the same league as Joan Allen’s character Pam Landy as far as intelligence or depth of character. Tommy Lee Jones IS Tommy Lee Jones as CIA Director Robert Dewey who wants to put down Bourne no matter what the cost. It’s a completely unoriginal, one-dimensional character that Jones manages to infuse with his personality.
The action scenes, while extremely well-choreographed, suffer at times with the shaky, hand-held camera style that director Paul Greengrass has made his hallmark. This is abundantly clear late in the film during the ambitious car chase in Las Vegas. It’s very hard to follow exactly which vehicle just hit another vehicle and the blurred camera footage is likely to give a few audience members a headache.
Still, while not being in the same league as some of the earlier Bourne films, Jason Bourne is an entertaining addition to the action movie series. It’s good to have Bourne back.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2016