After a near decade hiatus from the franchise that propelled him into superstardom, Matt Damon reprises his iconic role as the amnesia-plagued CIA assassin in ‘Jason Bourne,’ the long-awaited and deeply satisfying fifth film in the beloved espionage film series.
Also returning for the fifth installment is director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”), who cowrote the script with longtime editor Christopher Rouse, and the scribes make sure the high-octane action doesn’t let up for the full two hours. With another globe-trotting storyline captured with the handheld, documentary style aesthetic that Greengrass has perfected over the course of his career, the type of insanely choreographed fight sequences and car chases with which the franchise is synonymous, and a committed cast who sink their teeth into their respective roles, including series newcomers Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”), Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”) and the indispensable Tommy Lee Jones, “Jason Bourne” is of a quality that merits Damon’s return.
It’s been twelve years since Jason Bourne went off the grid after exposing the Blackbriar program in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and now he’s biding his time as a bareknuckle brawler on the Greek/Macedonian border. Still tortured as ever from his murky past as a highly trained Black Ops assassin, the storyline kicks into high gear when fellow operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tracks him down after hacking into CIA files that offer a window into his true identity and family history. However, when CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) learns of the intelligence breach, his team led by prodigious hacker Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and an assassin known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel) soon descend on the rogue agent in Athens.
Although Bourne escapes Greece with the classified files, along the way, he suffers a devastating loss, making him all the more committed to uncovering his identity and exposing governmental corruption. As Bourne hopscotches across the globe in search of answers, he learns of a nefarious new surveillance program between the CIA and Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the CEO of a social network called Deep Dream designed to guarantee privacy for its users.
Much like previous installments, screenwriters Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse tap into current events – in this case, political instability in Europe and ongoing concerns about cyber security – to set their espionage tale in a real world context. And while this backdrop certainly adds a timeliness to the plot, it should come as no surprise that the main draw here is the astonishing action pervading the pic. From the opening Athens escape sequence amidst a citywide riot to the unparalleled car chase climax across the Vegas strip, even for franchise standards, “Jason Bourne” raises the action bar higher than ever before. Kudos belong to cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (“The Big Short,” “Captain Phillips”) for bringing a chaotic yet controlled, fly-on-the-wall visual style to the proceedings, as well as Christopher Rouse’s essential editing.
Making his fourth appearance as the titular character, Matt Damon may have been away from the role for a decade, but no rust is evident, as he captures his character’s tortured psyche and superhuman skill set with the same go-for-broke mentality that he brought to the first three features. That Damon is able to bring the same level of physicality to the role that he brought to the franchise back in 2002 is nothing short of remarkable.
With the exception of Julia Stiles, who is reliably strong as Bourne’s fellow operative, the supporting cast is filled with newcomers to the series, and they all dive into the world of espionage with aplomb. As the social media honcho, Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler,” “The Night Of”) continues to make strides in the acting world even if the role is somewhat limited, and Vincent Cassel is dependably diabolical as The Asset, but it’s Tommy Lee Jones as the cynical CIA Director and Alicia Vikander as an ambitious but ambivalent hacker that really stand out in the peripheral roles.
Although certain elements of the double-dealing plot may strike Bourne novices as too convoluted, by and large, “Jason Bourne” is a quality spy flick for fans and newbies alike.
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.