“Why would he come back now?” asks one character during this new Bourne instalment.
A valid query, considering this blandly titled new episode follows a much maligned ‘sidequel’ and arrives nearly a decade after the closing chapter of the original trilogy. And what a perfect trilogy it remains, a looped loop that began and ended in water. A shame to tamper with satisfying symmetry, but if director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon have decided to return to the game-changing spy franchise, there must be a decent reason. Right?
Not really, it turns out. The familiar premise sees our favourite amnesiac (sorry to all you Dory fans out there) coaxed back into action following a Snowden-esque hack, which unearths yet another secret from Bourne’s past. Cue some country-hopping, tech rooms full of people shouting at monitors, sullen agency directors (Tommy Lee Jones’ weathered features have never been so mesmeric) and nameless assets carrying big foldable guns.
Credit where credit’s due: the action in Jason Bourne is worth the price of admission alone. A high-octane chase through the streets of Athens stands out, proving once more that only Greengrass can make shaky-cam action feel so visceral and yet look so clear. These thrills make this reliably entertaining instalment stand head and shoulders above most of this summer’s blockbusters. But given that this has been one of the weakest seasons in recent memory, that’s hardly the biggest compliment.
The question of where Bourne as a character fits into the post-WikiLeaks world is an alluring one. However, in delving deeper into his past, Greengrass and co-scriptwriter Christopher Rouse end up posing a series of questions that nobody really needs or wants answers to. Ultimately, this is a serviceable standalone thriller, but a disappointingly formulaic origin story that adds little to the overarching saga.
Jason Bourne | Directed by Paul Greengrass (USA, 2016) with Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones. Starts August 11.