While promoting 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon dismissed the idea of returning for another outing as tough but troubled former CIA assassin Jason Bourne, saying: “We’ve ridden that horse as far as we can.” Yet nearly a decade later, he and director Paul Greengrass have reunited for this belated sequel. And, sensibly, everyone involved has chosen to ignore 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, an unnecessary attempt to continue the franchise with Jeremy Renner standing in for Damon’s magnetic title character.
The script, by Greengrass and fellow franchise veteran Christopher Rouse, brings Bourne up-to-date by giving the film a somewhat clunky post-Snowden backdrop. As they prepare to appear together at a Las Vegas convention, the CIA’s dodgy director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is secretly coercing tech entrepreneur Aaron Kalloor (Four Lions’ Riz Ahmed) into turning fictional social network Deep Dream into a huge global surveillance tool. But, as ever, the story’s real meat lies in Jason Bourne’s restless quest to piece together his past. When his old ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tells Bourne his father may have been more deeply linked to the CIA than he realises, Bourne’s pitted against Dewey and his protégée Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) in a continent-crossing bid to uncover the truth.
Although this set-up feels familiar from previous Bourne movies, Greengrass still manages to build plenty of tension as a CIA hitman (Vincent Cassel) tracks Bourne from Europe to Las Vegas, where he plans to confront Dewey. Jones oozes grisly charisma as the slimy CIA director and Vikander is brilliant as his scheming colleague, but it’s Damon who carries this film on his hulking shoulders. Although Damon reckons he only utters “about 25 lines” in the entire film, his terse, near-wordless turn captures the character’s conflict perfectly. When Heather Lee suggests the CIA could persuade Bourne to return to the fold, Damon keeps us guessing as to whether she’s right.
Factor in some bombastic set pieces and a couple of slick twists and it’s hard not to consider Jason Bourne a job well done. It’s no radical reinvention, but Greengrass and Damon have pulled off a broadly satisfying franchise revival.