Jason Bourne offers up the fifth helping in the Bourne franchise – albeit only the fourth actually featuring Bourne (Matt Damon) himself. One of the least imaginatively titled films of all time, it does however, offer up a massive serve of tension and action, and the most violent and brutal instalment in the franchise. Consequently, its greatest flaw comes in the old adage that one can have too much of a good thing.
The quality of this film will likely not be easily defined until further instalments are added. It is a roaring success on offering excitement and thrills. Due to the effort made to dial up the thrills, some of the subtle problem-solving that has characterised Bourne is lost. At least one scene later in the film highlights this problem as Bourne and an adversary rack up a damage bill that would make James Bond cringe.
When the Daniel Craig Bond film rolled around and the over-the-top melodrama was toned down in favour of harsh brutality, subtlety, and more grounded plots, the series was met with accusations from some quarters that it had got too close to the Bourne series. Now we see a Bourne film that appears to borrow heavily from Bond.
There are criticisms to make of this film. It loses the balance of far-reaching plot and stunning action as it pursues the thrills more often than previous instalments usually have. The action is at times hard to follow as the handheld camera style intrudes too much into some scenes. A reasonable stylistic choice though it is, it makes some scenes more difficult to follow than is necessary.
This film pushes the overarching Treadstone plot to levels that just can’t be sustained. If the series elects to return to treading the same ground as before, it will fail. Too much progress appeared to be made in this film. If this film marks a bend in the plot towards a new threat, then Bourne still has a future.
The sheer force of the action and the stunning quality of some of the set pieces is such that the film is nearly able to undo the one certainty the audience would appear to have: Bourne will survive. The series, and particularly this film, is content to put Jason Bourne through such harsh treatment that Bourne’s apparently guaranteed survival is brought in to question. In that respect the film chalks up a major success.
The film introduces a compelling villain for Bourne to face in Vincent Cassel’s (Partisan) ‘Asset’. The film retroactively engineers a backstory between Bourne and the Asset with mixed results. The character proves far more engaging in the action rather than motivation. He is introduced with shortest of shorthand in on-screen villainy – he murders a man within a minute of being introduced. The character only picks up from here, however, as he proves a great match for Bourne.
All things considered, Jason Bourne is a problematic film though a good one. The action is stunning and it is a truly remarkable piece of escapist cinema, but in an effort to find new ways to thrill a jaded audience, the series may have played too many cards in one go. Now, more than ever, the series needs to move forward.
Reviewed by Liam McNally.