It’s been nine years since Matt Damon last wore the all-black ensemble of Jason Bourne, the assassin-turned-amnesiac who only wants to be left alone. Sure, there was 2011’s rotten Bourne Legacy, but we haven’t gotten a true Bourne film since the fantastic trilogy-capper The Bourne Ultimatum.
It seemed the franchise couldn’t go any further, at least with Jason Bourne in the lead. His story had been played out. The studio tried extending the franchise with The Bourne Legacy, but we all know how that worked out. Somehow, Damon and director Paul Greengrass – helmer of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum – found a way to continue Jason Bourne’s story without it feeling recycled.
After the events of Ultimatum, Bourne still hasn’t found peace. He’s making money fighting in the slums of Greece, living day-to-day. After an Edward Snowden-like hack from Nikki Parsons (Julia Stiles, back for more) reveals a new clue about Treadstone, the CIA program that brainwashed Bourne, the former assassin springs into action.
Jason Bourne may lack the frenetic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants feel of Supremacy and Ultimatum, but those sequels also went into production without a completed script, forcing Greengrass & Co. to make things up on the fly and create the film in editing. Using John Powell’s energetic score to hold the pieces together, both sequels had a break-neck pace that could only be created in such strenuous circumstances. Jason Bourne follows the Greengrass/Bourne template established in those sequels, but without having to make things up as they go, the film sometimes feels like imitation Bourne.
With this being the third Bourne Damon and Greengrass have made together, the template has been set for Jason Bourne. There’s still the older CIA official big bad trying to keep a lid on Bourne, (this time it’s Tommy Lee Jones, following in the footsteps of Chris Cooper, Brian Cox and David Strathairn), the brainwashed assassin trying to kill Bourne, operation rooms full of technical gear that can track anything and everything, whiplash fight sequences, and a climactic car chase. The template still works – Jason Bourne is a solid entry in the franchise – but it is starting to show its wear.
Barring any new Bourne entry that can somehow top it, Ultimatum will likely remain the best of the series. Identity was a bit too polished but still very solid, Supremacy is good but lacks substance and Jason Bourne is solid but unspectacular. In a summer full of tired retreads like Independence Day: Resurgence and Alice Through the Looking Glass, one could do a lot worse than taking another globe-hopping trip with Jason Bourne.