“You’re never going to find any peace. Not till you admit to yourself who you really are.”
Based on the Robert Ludlam book series, Jason Bourne is fifth installment in this quality, action-filled film series that features amazing stunt work, minimal special effects, and intelligent, mature content.
In 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, audiences saw how far Bourne would go for answers about his past participation in the CIA’s secret agent development program.
This latest two hour and three-minute installment is primarily driven by the decisions of Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, who now seemingly knows the most about the CIA’s special programs. His knowledge could expose the CIA and their secrets to the world.
Bourne’s motivations could have been defined clearer since his actions basically drive the plot.
Survival and program exposure are obvious motivations, but what’s Bourne’s real “endgame”?
Damon’s physical prowess as Bourne still impresses and is necessary for his basic survival. Smart people attract too much attention, but the strong silent type fits well here.
His emotions also pack a punch, especially his reaction to the results of a chase sequence on the streets of Athens, Greece.
Bourne may struggle somewhat against the institutions he once believed in, but he also gains allies based on his history, his admirable actions and his overall ideals.
Filmmakers inventively use the passage of time as a developmental tool that adds an intriguing new possibility in Bourne’s future.
Other intrigue elements still include the globetrotting locations (London, Berlin, Iceland, etc.) and Bourne’s character revelations, but gone are the overall background elements since filmmakers refine the progression into a specific event in Bourne’s life.
Julia Stiles’ performance as the returning Nicky Parson works so well that most audiences can guess her ultimate resolution in this quality installment.
Nicky compliments Jason well especially in the dialogue. After Jason says he remembers everything she replies with “Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.” This couple deserves a spinoff origin story…or at least some fan fiction.
New CIA director Robert Dewey, played by Tommy Lee Jones, definitely carries the weight of the agency’s past and current power in every aspect of his performance (appearance, mannerisms, decisions, etc.)
Jones’ excellent performance anchors the addition of top analyst Heather Lee, played by rising star Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) who shows talent, resolve, and expert strategy. Her decisions also have great consequences within the plot.
Ato Essandoh plays Dewey’s assistant Craig Jeffers while Scott Shepherd plays high-ranking CIA official Edwin Russell.
CIA involvement becomes more of a power struggle than intellectual warfare with Bourne. They do not outwit him – they just react to Bourne and follow him while some struggle with base ideals and personal ambition.
Characters from other CIA secret agent development “programs” also could have added more intrigue (e.g. LARX is seen only on a computer screen with several others) instead audiences get Vincent Cassel (Ocean’s 12) as the “Asset”.
Aaron Kalloor, played by Riz Ahmed (TV’s The Night Of), adds some depth to the CIA side of the coin as a tech mogul who manages the innovative, high-profile Deep Dream platform for computers/devices. This relationship draws real life parallels similar to the FBI’s desire to have Apple unlock an encrypted Apple iPhone following a 2015 terrorist attack.
Franchise veteran Albert Finney makes an appearance, but nothing from Joan Allen, Scott Glenn or David Strathairn here. All appeared in 2012’s Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner as ex-CIA program agent Aaron Cross along with Rachel Weisz as scientist Dr. Marta Shearing.
Director Paul Greengrass reteams with co-screenwriter/editor Christopher Rouse yet again. Rouse won an Oscar for editing The Bourne Ultimatum and does not have any let down here, especially during great sequence Greengrass and his team simultaneously negotiate massive riot events with Bourne’s activities that involve several characters.
In the plot, context is key. If you don’t know what’s going on in the real world then you will not get as much out of this film.
Audiences don’t have to know much about the Bourne film series or characters thanks to a beginning flashback sequence that also provides insight into Bourne’s current mental state and overall morale.
Audiences have seen the elaborate protocols and secret cover ups, so now the tactics take a bigger stage.
These high status, yet subtle tactics revolve around simple objectives. For the CIA, it’s get Bourne while Bourne wants the answer to a specific life event newly discovered by a key character.
All the key characters know what it takes (and have the needed skills) to achieve their objectives, so the most intriguing elements become the motivations behind their actions.
Audiences must then “read” each character to predict their motivations and resulting actions, which often involve facial expressions and body language.
A top-notch cast that includes three Oscar winners should alleviate any character qualms, but some audiences will still make a key mistake in their interpretations – confusing resolve with boredom based on some character’s facial expressions.
Just watch Dewey’s expressions towards civilians that pass by in an interior restaurant sequence as he meets with a key character. He’s definitely not bored, but he wisely keeps his emotions in check.
Emotional involvement and resulting action creates unwanted exposure, attention and, most importantly, the revelation of true motives. Dewey even warns one of his subordinates to avoid taking an emotional approach based on past events.
In this series, it does not matter what side the characters choose, it’s their resolve that becomes essential to their success and/or survival.
Filmmakers keep audiences “ahead of the game” with key reveals and interactions among the characters, but they would have added more intrigue and surprise if they didn’t (e.g. excluding a key character’s preparation when orienting to a new setting, etc.)
Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd paints a realistic picture that matches the documentary film-style camera shots.
John Powell returns to provide the musical score along with David Buckley (TV’s The Good Wife) plus musician Moby contributes songs like “Extreme Ways” – another staple in the series.
The stuntwork and action sequences amaze except for one noticeable snafu where a vehicle air bag does not deploy.
Doug Liman, director of first installment, The Bourne Identity, still serves as co-producer along with Greengrass, Rouse, Damon, and Frank Marshall.
Look for a possible Aaron Cross return (hopefully along with filmmakers Tony Gilroy and the CIA characters played by Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man)) in a 2018 or 2020 installment with maybe another “Bourne” installment headlining Matt Damon or a possible cross over with both.
Highly recommended (***1/2) and rated PG-13 for violence, intense action, and for brief language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler