Jason Bourne (dir. Greengrass, wr. Greengrass & Rouse)
A confession: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the Jason Bourne films, but I can’t distinguish any of them now. To be honest, I thought I’d already seen one where Vincent Cassel was the baddie. (Maybe that was one of the Ocean’ses, which also rather blur.)
There’s usually Damon, and an intense-hippy girl, and a car chase around a European city, and other assassins, and Revelations about Damon’s mysterious past, and some high-level Government type trying to bring him in or work him out or kill him. It’s all professionally done, and moody, and at the end Damon more or less comes out on top, but let’s face it there aren’t any real winners in the international assassination game, are there?
So here we are again. Jason Bourne: a tense, vaguely intelligent dose of international espionage procedural, breathless action and millennial angst. And an hour after the credits I’m starting to forget chunks of it. Like an international assassin who’s seen too much.
It’s all well done: a strong cast and high end production values, all skillfully handled. (Though the problem with Greengrass’s trademark dizzy action is that half the time you don’t know what’s going on. There’s a general sense of confusion, which is presumably the point. But it’s hard to care if you don’t know what to care about; and it’s rather a shame to throw all that money at a car chase, but not to give a strong idea of who’s chasing whom, or more than a general impression of a dodgem ride in darkness.)
Much has been made of how few lines Damon speaks; it’s tight, effective writing. But the general uncertainty about his character – his numb remorseless endurance as yet another bit of Government sneakiness bounces off him – makes him a blank reflecting no more than a general sense of paranoia and nihilism.
(And in trying to have its cake and eat it, the film ends up with neither: we get glimmerings of a potentially interesting idea that Damon and Cassel are in the same predicament, victims of the times/the Man/the unbearable melancholy of existence; but by making Cassel part of the villainy in Damon’s past, and making him the climactic fight rather than uber-cynic Tommy Lee Jones, the film strains at the last for a bit of goodie v. baddie exuberance that the mood can’t support.)
And so to the over-extended postscript, with Alicia Vikander the fastest-promoted probationer in history, setting up for next time the same plot all over again. We’ve seen it before, and it’s getting harder to care. The 21st Century may be this bleak, but at least leave us a bit of entertainment on the screen.