Spycraft. History is replete with stories of clandestine operations by the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s MI-6, and Russia’s KGB. These agencies gather intelligence to protect their country’s national security interests. With the increasing threat of virtual and digital theft, their modern mandates have changed. In 1980, Robert Ludlum introduced us to a Cold War hero, Jason Bourne and Universal Pictures introduced the cinematic version of the character in 2002 with Doug Liman’s “The Bourne Identity”. After two successful sequels and a side story, Bourne is back, continuing the fight for freedom and justice in Paul Greengrass’ “Jason Bourne”.
Bourne, who has been ‘off the grid’ seeks to maintain his anonymity while other forces work to shake him lose, reinvigorate his locked memories, and bring him back in from the Cold.The script by Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse felt as if it was written to be filmed and cut in a specific sequence: although it flows, it is an unfocused mess.
Matt Damon is still a relevant choice to play the character. With this entry, we no longer have to care about Jason Bourne – he has lost the innocence that made him more vulnerable in the earlier movies. The story makes passing references to certain recent events. Yet they’re no longer believable because the character doesn’t fit these events.
The supporting cast is mostly the film’s strength. Julia Stiles grounds the movie in the past, while Vikander’s role is representative of modern surveillance techniques and points to an interesting future for the franchise. Vincent Cassel, who makes for an interesting antagonist, is window dressing – his function is understood, but is not integral to the plot. Tommy Lee Jones, who is always fun to watch on the screen, is also window dressing.
Paul Greengrass is famous for putting the audience in the middle of the action through the use of shaky camera movements. It can be an effective story device but its overuse gets annoying detracting from the story’s ability to flow. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (“United 93”) finds the right balance between the action and the global locales. His nighttime camera work is highly effective and engaging while Christopher Rouse’s editing falls right in line with the pacing of the story. Given the various situations that the movie reflects, Mark Bridges’ costume designs strongly match each character while Karen Cohen and Frances Hannon’s hair and makeup design effectively conveying character’s emotional state.
Continuing the franchise’s excellence in sound, Michael Fentum’s sound design is no exception. To wit, John Powell’s riveting score has been a highlight. Here he is joined by David Buckley (“The Nice Guys” and “The Brothers Grimsby”). The Bourne themes are warmed up but flattened at the same time. In some sense, it diminishes some of the action on the screen while heightening some of the tension, making for an interesting and effective combination.
The Dolby Cinema experience effectively engages all the senses, especially with Dolby Atmos.
“I liked it better when I thought he was dead” quipped one of Bourne’s superiors in “The Bourne Identity.” What made the original trilogy likeable was its ability to not take itself so seriously in the middle of serious situations. Strong supporting characters and locations give “Jason Bourne” an edge, making it loosely Recommended. However, it takes itself far too seriously, dulling that edge quickly.