‘Jason Bourne’ Review: The Bourne Addendum

'Jason Bourne'

Movie Rating:


Nine years ago, ‘The Bourne Identity’ trilogy wrapped up pretty succinctly and seemed like the sort of thing that should be left alone. Then came ‘The Bourne Legacy’, an unnecessary spinoff that qualified more as a franchise tainting than a proper extension. Now Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have returned to right the ship.

The star and director always said that they’d be back if there was movie worth making. The uncreatively titled ‘Jason Bourne’ does have a little headline commentary jammed in between action sequences, which could theoretically be called the cause for the duo’s return. However, it’s more likely that they actually came back just to ensure that the franchise wrapped up with a decent movie rather than a cash-grab afterthought. Fair enough. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever claim this is the best film in the ‘Bourne’ series, but it just might have the best action scenes that Greengrass ever conceived. That’s not nothing.

We meet up with Bourne (Matt Damon, naturally) at a low point. He’s now doing bareknuckle boxing for cash somewhere in Europe, like Rambo with better hair and even less visible scarring despite all the fists to the face. Julia Stiles returns as Nicky, Bourne’s former inside contact in the government who’s now an off-the-grid hacker/troublemaker. She has discovered some new info about Bourne’s past and shares it with him in the midst of an unspecified riot in Athens. This draws the attention of the new super-surveillance and evil government team led by grizzled CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his quietly questioning assistant (Alicia Vikander). Dewey sends a nameless Euro-assassin (Vincent Cassel) after Bourne once he surfaces. As you can imagine, Bourne doesn’t take kindly to that. At that point, the game is on with the hidden superspy running around and uncovering secrets about his past, as well as Dewey’s shady government ties to a social media guru (Riz Ahmed from HBO’s ‘The Night Of’).

Obviously, the rationale behind reviving Bourne now was to tie his tale into the Snowden/’Pokémon Go’ era of voluntary government surveillance through mass cell phone addiction. That’s not a bad excuse, but don’t expect too much depth into that particular brand of digital paranoia. After all, while the ‘Bourne’ movies won points for including some level of political consciousness into their action thrills, it was always pretty surface level “War on Terror” observations weaved within grand old action spectacle. That’s true here too. It’s shallow, but fun.

That’s fine. At least Greengrass is more overtly politically aware in his film than, say, the folks behind the latest ‘Captain America’, which is the nearest contemporary equivalent. Where the fourquel struggles to keep the franchise running is in the revived memories of Bourne’s mysterious past. Since that plot wrapped up fairly succinctly in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, Greengrass and his co-screenwriter/editor Christopher Rouse resort to some soap opera plotting about Bourne’s father with new memories opening in Bourne’s pained brain that feel a little stretched-out and ridiculous. Oh well, it could be far worse.

The reason the political subtext (well, text; it’s not exactly hidden) and back story are so simple is because Greengrass has always geared his movies toward action, suspense and spectacle first, and this flick packs some doozies. There’s a stunner in Athens when Bourne comes out of hiding, engaging in a motorcycle chase with a riot erupting around him (complete with crumbling buildings and endless Molotov cocktails). That’s wild, but merely a tease for a grand finale car chase in Vegas with cars flying around the neon strip in a more grounded display of ‘Fast and Furious’ automotive insanity. In a summer pretty much devoid of conventional physical action scenes, Greengrass delivers some truly remarkable spectacle, and his rapid-fire editing, handheld camera style feels more refined and clearly focused than before. He’s arguably topped the gritty action/suspense sequences that made his ‘Bourne’ movies so beloved. Above all else, that justifies the new movie’s existence. If you love action, getting pummeled by these scenes is a requirement for your summer movie season.

In between, the pop paranoia intrigue still works, even if it doesn’t quite have the same drive since Bourne’s past has long since been revealed. Much of that comes down to casting and Greengrass’ skill with actors. Tommy Lee Jones’ Western landscape face and pained scowls provide one of the better bureaucrat villains from this series, even if he has some of the weakest motivation. Vikander is a strong presence, set up for even stronger work in a sequel that may or may not arrive. Vincent Cassel provides a far more memorable villain than a personality-free stooge should possibly have thanks to his natural charisma. And of course, Matt Damon grounds it all as a perpetually pained hero in constant existential crisis. Everyone slots into the subdued and almost emotionless acting style that defined the franchise long ago. Even though they’re making pop, they treat it more seriously than most.

Is ‘Jason Bourne’ an absolutely necessary addition to a franchise that had to happen almost a decade after the initial trilogy concluded? No, not really. It feels more like a victory lap for Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, who wanted to both make up for ‘The Bourne Legacy’ and prove that they could still go toe-to-toe with the action filmmakers who’ve been topping their work for years. As popcorn entertainment, they deliver the goods. The look and feel of the series is retained well and the spectacle has never been bigger or better. Although the story is a bit strained and the whole thing feels a bit superfluous, that’s mostly because the series was so strong in its prime that standards are higher for a ‘Bourne’ flick than most summer action fare. Compared to the competition, this is damned good. It’s smart, it’s well crafted, it tries to say something, and then delivers one of the greatest cinematic car chases ever staged as icing on the cake.


  1. Guy

    I feel like I’m the only person on Earth that walked out of Ultimatum feeling a little let down whilst also really enjoying what was pulled off in Legacy. Gilroy’s spinoff/sidequel got plot-heavy and heady to the same degree that Identity and Supremacy were character-driven actioners. Different flavors, yet still with the same sensibilities in storytelling. Legacy could’ve benefited from a slightly tighter edit, but I really dug the slow burn, tense, paranoid atmosphere paired with its more intricate narrative. Identity and Supremacy are still better I believe, but it’s not a runaway.

    While not a bad movie by any stretch, Ultimatum gave me none of the closure about Bourne/David Webb I wanted and, after the excellent Waterloo sequence, gave way to “Hey, remember this?” allusions to the previous films in between fights and chases that were Bourne-by-numbers. The only new character info we found out in that movie is that he volunteered for the program, had a different birth date than the one Joan Allen told him at the end of Supremacy and may have had a relationship with Julia Stiles’ character that should’ve come up in Ultimatum’s predecessors. It’s a well-made movie on an action level with a few charms of its own throughout, but it started its cinematic life as the least accomplished Bourne film and remains there for me.

    Hearing there are personal nuggets in this new one puts my mind at ease some. After satisfying character work in the first two films, Ultimatum’s credits rolled and all I wanted was the movie about who David Webb was that I expected. Doesn’t sound like that’s what this flick is either, but anything pre-Bourne is more than I expected given the personal revelation stingy-nature of the Damon entries previously. Despite our wholly differing views on Legacy and Ultimatum and his excitement about a car chase that looks Die Hard 5-level bad to me in the trailers, Philip’s review has me encouraged. Some current geopolitical themes, a little intrigue and a hint of Bourne character development is exactly what I want.

  2. Chris B

    I think I must be the only one who still likes the first installment of this franchise the best. Sure Doug Liman has made some shitty movies, but I found his version of Bourne a lot more interesting than Greengrass’. I got sucked in by the trailers for the first two Bourne sequels and left the theatre underwhelmed. I refuse to pay to see a third one (starring Damon that is). However, if Liman made it back to the franchise I’d prolly see it opening weekend…

    • SuperSugarBear

      I like Liman’s movies. It think All You Need is Kill…er…EDGE OF TOMORROW is one of the most underrated movies of the last 5 years. (And THE best video game movie, even though it is not BASED on a video game). I find Greengrass HIGHLY overrated – and the fact that he becomes persona non grata outside of this series bears that out. I think THE BOURNE WHATEVER would probably be a better title.

  3. Troy LaMont

    Meh, I wasn’t thrilled…casting was a problem for me from a visual perspective (too many old faces, especially Tommy Lee Jones my God). Story was so-so and most of it was a rehash of things we’ve all seen before in the series. I got tired of watching him ‘walk fast, with purpose so as to not draw attention, but look suspicious at the same damn time’. The premise of the story was interesting but I don’t think it played out well enough and I don’t think Matt Damon really did any real acting here as he only really had a handful of lines. I gave it 2.5 outta 5. Just my $.02.

    Bourne Identity is still the best of the bunch, followed by Ultimatum, Supremacy then this (I don’t include Legacy because Matt wasn’t in it).

    • Chapz Kilud

      I completely agree with you. I enjoyed the movie but in the end there was nothing new in this one. This time around the story made less sense. After the congressional hearings, you’d figured the agency would have gone thru a big overhaul. Instead the new director still gave the same quick kill order. Also, in the end, why would Bourne want to give her back the recorder? She could have the block shut down and Bourne would have no escape route in that part of Washington DC.

  4. boston007

    Sorry Phil, I flat out disagree. This movie sucked and is the worst of the Bourne(Damon) movies.

    Terrible screenplay
    Terrible acting
    Too much shakey cam

    This movie is 2 stars at the most.

    • Chapz Kilud

      I agreed the screen shook too much. I had to sit further back from my usual seat in order to compensate. I think the acting was adequate. The screenplay is a bunch of recycled material from earlier Bourne. They could have gone to one of the Bourne novel. Even borrowing ideas from different Bourne novels could create something different. But they didn’t.

  5. todd

    Have not seen this yet.
    I’m just glad Matt and Paul are back and another Bourne was made ( I love these movies)
    After reading these reviews I’m a little worried about uniqueness .
    I also am not looking forward to the shaky camera . Got that a lot on the 3rd one and hated it !!

  6. Timcharger

    Phil: “delivers one of the greatest cinematic car chases ever staged”

    I get that this is an opinion, but no. It really isn’t even close to being
    in the category of GOAT. My rebuke isn’t about stunt choreography
    logistics. Or that there’s no long, continuous take. But the staging
    itself, how the scene is written, the scenario was weak. There’s no
    tension to chase. There’s no time crunch, no deadline, no
    kidnapped victim, no immediate reason why the chase must be
    successful for our hero.

    There’s no evidence that Vincent Cassel’s escape will lead to some
    great calamity. The film could easily cut to Whatever-City, Wherever-
    Country that Cassel escapes to, and Matt Damon can appear from
    the shadows to get his revenge. That would be a believable next

    • Timcharger

      I’m not even sure if Jason Bourne’s car chase
      ranks higher than the others in the series. Identity
      was fun with a old, beat-up Mini Cooper. It had Jason
      studying a map, preparing a route, instead of just
      lucking it out. Supremacy had two assassins using
      their vehicles as weapons to kill each other. Escaping
      wasn’t their goal. Ultimatum had Jason’s car chase
      against a multitude of the CIA’s hit teams. And maybe
      the fact that all the other car chases occurred during
      daylight versus Jason Bourne’s night chase, we could
      see much more. The rapid cuts, shaky cam was made
      worse by the dark of this film’s car chase.

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