After going into hiding for too long, Jason Bourne is back, and this time he is more determined than he has ever been to take town the evil government forces standing in his way to peace and freedom. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon return to the Bourne franchise in what may have been one of the most anticipated Hollywood pairings of 2016… and now the question is; Did it live up to people’s expectations? If you expectations for it were to be bigger and better and surpass the films that came before it you aren’t going to get that with this film. Whereas if it is a Bourne style action/thriller that follows a similar formula you were looking for then that is exactly what you are going to get here. The film delivers on all the elements you expect to see from a Bourne film, the fist fights, gun fights, car chases, foot chases, fantastic performances, and the large intense action set-pieces. The fact that the film follows a very familiar formula and and does what the other films also do incredibly well is one of the biggest positives in the film…. But on the other hand, it is also where the biggest negative exists.
Although this film is a sequel it is also sort of rebooting the franchise at the same time, and as a result the film needs to reintroduce briefly who Jason Bourne is and also introduce the new batch of supporting characters he will be interacting with. This means that unlike the unbroken intensity of Supremacy and Ultimatum, this film did have some more ‘downtime’ to manage, and for the most part it did so very well. The first act of the film is quite high and low in terms of speed and intensity but once everything is set up it kicks back into gear and doesn’t really let up until the very end which is what you’d expect to see. One thing this film does well is really build anticipation, and more importantly deliver on that anticipation. Throughout the film hints are being placed here and there and smaller side mysteries are building constantly throughout the film, all leading to a supposed big finale and when that finale comes it is everything you wanted to see in one massive action packed chunk. Now there are some things in the other Bourne films you’d think this film cannot top such as the epic car chase towards the end of Supremacy, or the countless epic close quarters fights over the trilogy. But by god this film goes for it and may have even succeeded.
The action scenes in this film are just as brutal and some even more brutal than those in the previous Bourne films. He may have gotten better at hiding but there is no doubt he has also gotten better at beating the living shit out of anyone who stands in his way. Greengrass’ shaky-cam fight scenes are back and prove that shaky-cam is an art in filmmaking that if used correctly can be very effective in conveying the chaos of a scene or the grounded brutality of a fight. This film had a similar budget to Ultimatum ($110M) with $120M and if you are wondering where the money was focused in this film, there is a car chase somewhere in the film…. It is long, and it is big, and there is no doubt a massive chunk of that money went into making this chase as exciting and awesome as it could be. One aspect of the previous Bourne films that has been a slightly lacking part was the presence and threat posed by the enemy assassin who is tasked with hunting down Bourne/someone. You never got the impression that they could ever outsmart Bourne or beat him in a fight, and they were also not really much of a character as Bourne is despite them being bred from the same/similar programs. This film aimed to fix that and did a very good job to where you feel the presence of a looming threat, something absent from the previous 3 films.
The performances are a key aspect of the Bourne franchise and have been big parts of the success of the previous films with the amount of talent in every role. And by adding the talents of Tommy Lee Jones, and the amazing Alicia Vikander into this film there was no doubt you were going to see some quality performances here. Matt Damon obviously brings his best to this character and completely transforms into this slightly older, and more intelligent Jason Bourne and was amazing to watch in every scene. On top of that, Vikander and Jones were fantastic in their government roles and shared a good amount of chemistry between each other and other characters around them making all of their scenes just as engaging. Now as i mentioned, the familiarity of this film is the key thing drawing in large audiences, but it is also the thing holding the film back. There are characters, plot points, and key events in this film that are great to watch but you just can’t shake the fact that it all seemed a little too familiar. Stuff happens where you are amazed and fully engaged in the scene but the whole time in the back of your mind you are getting flashbacks to Supremacy and Ultimatum. And this is a criticism that is not unique to this film, if this had come out in 2007 and Ultimatum came out in 2016 i’d be saying the same thing about that film.
I have to mention that there is one side plot in the film with a side character whose purpose in the film was very unclear in the beginning, began to make a little more sense as the film went on, and then was abruptly unresolved in the end. It made me feel that this was literally only there as a way to push the film forward at some moments and provide some minor conflict for some characters but overall was not really at all interesting and got way too much screen time. But other than that, the negatives are non existent in this film, it’s just held back because it is a little too familiar.
So in the end, this is very much a Bourne Action/Thriller, to the point where if you did not like Supremacy or Ultimatum you will definitely not like this film, and vice versa. You get everything you want from a Bourne film with the action, the story, thrills, and performances and only adds to why this action franchise is the greatest.