123 min. | PG-13
It was nine years ago that we last saw Matt Damon racing around the world beating people up as brainwashed assassin Jason Bourne. Those interim years weight heavily upon this fourth installment. Damon, now 46, is beefier, more intimidating, and more dangerous. Bourne appears to have been scraping out a meager living since we last saw him as a bare-knuckle boxer in underground fights. When Damon unleashes Bourne’s power, he owns the screen.
Director Paul Greengrass, from the second and third installments, hasn’t lost his mojo either. He remains a master of breathless, nonstop action that’s still comprehensible. Whether it’s a motorcycle getaway from assassins through Athens streets overrun by rioters or a relentless demolition derby through Las Vegas, we’re in the middle of the mayhem, bombarded by thrills while never losing track of what’s happening.
The world has moved on from the initial upheaval—geopolitical, cultural, technological—of the years just after 9/11, and Jason Bourne can’t keep up with our darker, grimmer world. The early-2000s Bourne flicks had a sense of urgency. Jason Bourne only makes feints toward engaging with the spiraling disaster of today’s zeitgeist: A Julian Assange-esque internet whistleblower is almost instantly dismissed. Tech wunderkind Aaron Kalloro addresses the privacy concerns of total surveillance, but the purpose of his Deep Dream project is unclear. First it’s a “new platform” then “social networking.” Greengrass seems to think it’s enough that the CIA wants a backdoor peek on Deep Dream’s users, but it’s little more than a wave at a hot topic.
Bourne’s story was basically wrapped up after Ultimatum; he’d regained his memory and was out of the professional-killer game. Nicky (Julia Stiles), the clumsy CIA functionary of Identity, has grown into someone genuinely dangerous, and shows up to convince Bourne there’s more to learn. That turns out to be nothing particularly thrilling. Her character exits quickly, leaving Bourne without a humanizing companion like Marie in the first film.
Everything looks great on paper: Damon’s brawny presence; smartly staged action; the always cool Tommy Lee Jones as the director of the CIA; Alicia Vikander as a smooth CIA analyst; Vincent Cassel as another professional killer. It feels more old hat than black ops, but still a lot of fun.