A great deal has changed in the world since the first Bourne film back in 2002. The world is still a scary place full of bad people doing bad things and good people found in unlikely places. Based loosely on the Robert Ludlum novels, the series has had plenty of high energy moments, tense drama and lots of room for Matt Damon to not say much. He does get to beat up a lot of people with magazines, or anything else he can get his hands on, while continuing to try and figure out who he is and where he is from.
Fourteen years later, plenty of things director Paul Greengrass has used in previous installments are back on the screen again. Tight, handheld cameras and a plot that does so much to develop as it races around the world. “Jason Bourne” teams up Damon with Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons, the former CIA operative who is now working to expose CIA Black Ops. Someone in charge of props should have informed Greengrass and Co. that the computers used in 2016 look very different from the huge, cumbersome devices on screen as Parsons hacks the system. Oddly enough, Parsons is able to do in minutes what the CIA has spent a decade failing at: finding Bourne.
Even with the tireless efforts of brilliant new cyber ops liaison, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), the CIA gets nowhere. Parsons finds Bourne in Greece after gaining backdoor entry into the central intelligence agency mainframe in Iceland. Lee gets put in charge of catching Bourne, even after failing at the job for which she is trained. Vikander may be the worst casting choice possible. She seems stiff, emotionless and far too young to be leading a high level, large scale operation. Usually a fine actor, Vikander is more of a distraction than a benefit. Tommy Lee Jones plays her boss, CIA Director Robert Dewey. Jones is amazing at doing the exact same thing every time he appears on screen: seethe with thinly-veiled rage and disappointment. With all of that said, the film does deliver action sequences that make it watchable.
All of Greece is set to riot as austerity measures from the European Union has brought Athens, and the rest of the country, to its knees. This is where things get interesting. Protesters march the streets chanting. Molotov Cocktails are thrown. Riot police attempt to quell the rebellion. Confusion is everywhere. It is in this maelstrom of anarchy and unrest that Bourne and Parsons connect with briefly before they are detected. The high speed chase through the narrow Athens streets and up a treacherous staircase makes for great viewing. Greengrass’ handheld cameras and shaky ultra-realism works perfectly here. It also works during the largest car chase/pile up since “The Blues Brothers,” except this time, it is not played for laughs.
Without spoiling the plot, or giving away key information, the latest Bourne is not dull. It’s not great filmmaking either. Damon is stoic and broken as Bourne. Vikander will go on to better roles. Stiles has far too little screen time. But if you’re looking for action, violence and more than a little rehashing of the previous trilogy, “Jason Bourne” is a decently-made film.