When The Bourne Ultimatum was released in 2007, star Matt Damon felt that the story of his amnesiac-assassin protagonist had been told. “The story of this guy’s search for his identity is over” he said, before stating that only a reconfiguration of the character at some future point could persuade him to return. So to 2016 and Jason Bourne, the fourth instalment in this particular hero’s saga (excluding spin-off sequel The Bourne Legacy), in which things have slightly changed, but not all that much. The popular killing-machine must go on another covert and pulse-raising search for another missing piece of his psychological jigsaw.
A lengthy set piece in Athens is the film’s crowning achievement; it combines all of the key ingredients of typical Bourne action, relishing the hostile environment as it races through smoke-filled streets with Greengrass’ trademark velocity and bristling, shaky energy. That it is set amidst anti-government riots provides both the convenient surrounding chaos of action cinema and neat political shorthand. This is played out further in the primary plot involving insidious surveillance through social media, reframing the question about the new lengths that governments will go to and reloading the internal wrangling of agents and officials played by Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones. Riz Ahmed’s Zuckerberg-riffing tech entrepreneur is now as vital an asset as Vincent Cassell’s steely old-school wet worker.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson