Universal Pictures 2 hours 3 minutes PG-13
This movie begins with a knockout punch and the hits just keep on comin’. Matt Damon is Bourne and back again with Writer/Director Paul Greengrass who brings the stoic, intensely troubled super assassin Jason Bourne through his paces as he struggles to get answers and find out who he is. The director is clear that Bourne is “not a superhero with a cape. He’s just an ordinary man.” He says here he gets to show more “humanity, vulnerability, mixed with that incredible physical skill set.” Hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years since Damon has played this iconic character.
The movie sticks to author Robert Ludlum’s formula with increasing tension and the body count building as we figure out who’s on who’s side. And even then, you don’t know. This story is not based on one of Ludlum’s books, but written by Bourne writers, Greengrass and Christopher Rouse.
In this installment Bourne once again is on the run from former CIA overlords led by craggy, truly evil Tommy Lee Jones as the CIA Director, Robert Dewey. Now it’s game on pursuing Bourne in Athens, London and Las Vegas.
Greengrass has several, centerpiece, heart pumping action pieces. One includes shutting down the strip on Las Vegas for the climactic car chase with demolition so over the top, it drew laughs from the audience in our screening. Even Matt Damon called it “insane and massive and bigger” than what he and Paul have done to date. It’s so out of the realm, it’s almost cartoonish, like watching “Fast and Furious” out of control.
But there is plenty of other action in the film to keep you on the edge of your seat. Plus, the way the film is shot, you feel like you’re right there with Bourne, trying to figure out how he will get out of yet another impossible situation. He should have been dead many times in this movie, but Bourne’s tenacity keeps him going.
Dewey wants control of all data and personal surveillance, even with a popular outside internet company, so he can eliminate anyone, anywhere, anytime. When Bourne’s lone ally, Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, hacks the CIA, she uncovers more details about Bourne’s history with the agency. Dewey hired cyber security whiz, young Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to implement his grand plan of surveillance and when she finds out that Bourne is out there, it’s game on to find him.
Jones is at his crafty, crusty best playing the ultimate chess player moving all the pieces around. He says it was always fun watching Bourne movies and it was fun to be in this one playing “a bad daddy.” He also liked watching how Greengrass shot the film with multiple cameras in just about every scene. Jones was fascinated by how he’d hang one from a bungee cord, use hand held, put one on a sand bag. He says everything was in motion.
This film tackles the issue of security vs. freedom head on. Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, has history with Bourne. She’s a computer hacker for the CIA who who uncovers some vital details of his past and meets her match with CIA Cyber hacker expert Heather Lee who detects a leak. The systems they use to track Bourne update the franchise, but the immediacy of their being able to pinpoint him and get other information is pretty unrealistic.
Nicky and Heather are two strong, smart women who fight hard to get to Bourne without even facing each other. Greengrass has made Vikander, as Lee, a nicely textured, complex character. The academy award winner (The Danish Girl) is a Bourne fan who says she was excited to be in a film that was “ very smart and intelligent, yet it’s still being still a popcorn franchise with all that means with big action sequences.”
Bourne’s nemesis is The Asset, played by, Vincent Cassel. The actor says his name is not necessary but that you find out what his motivations are through his actions. Damon says he was lucky to work with Cassel who is a trained martial artist. That came in handy in what Damon calls the punishing mother of all fights. It’s well choreographed. You could say they play well together.
Ato Essandoh plays Jeffers who is Dewey’s right hand man who doesn’t like when Heather Lee starts to get in his way. Essandoh says shooting with Greengrass was different. He doesn’t have actors hit the mark, but tells them to act and “The camera will find you.”
He also says Greengrass wants the audience to feel involved by shooting it from Bourne’s perspective. He thinks, story-wise, you’re pulled in trying to figure out what he’s looking at. “There’s something that compels you as an audience member to sort of physically be in this movie.”
Is this worth your bucks? Bourne is back and Damon does due diligence in once again creating an intriguing tortured soul with plenty of physical punishment and lots of action. He admits that it’s a huge role for him on a number of levels and knows that it’s always going to follow him around, “but I don’t mind being followed around by Jason Bourne.” Plus he gets to work with world class actors like Alicia Vikander who he thinks brings youth to the franchise, and calls Tommy Lee a legend.
The Las Vegas chase is worth the price of admission for outrageous entertainment. And just like Jason Bourne, himself, this one will be hard to beat for summer action.