4.5 stars. Rated PG-13, for intense action and violence, and brief profanity
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 7.29.16
Director Paul Greengrass certainly hasn’t lost any of his juice. This newest installment in the Bourne franchise is relentless: It hits the ground running, never lets up for two full hours, and is bookended by a pair of spectacular action sequences.
I wouldn’t have thought Greengrass ever could top the mano a mano melees in 2004’s Bourne Supremacy, but he has ... and then some. Jason Bourne is a taut, breathtaking experience, its giddy momentum the result of equally fine work by editor Christopher Rouse, a longtime Greengrass colleague (and Academy Award winner, for 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum).
Greengrass and Rouse also collaborated on the timely, ripped-from-the-headlines script, which references the “safety or security?” argument at the heart of the recent spat between Apple Inc. and the FBI. The players have been altered to avoid lawsuits, but there’s no question which side of the fence our filmmakers occupy. Having navigated conspiracy-laden waters for more than a decade, Greengrass clearly doesn’t trust government agencies to have their citizens’ best interests — or privacy — at heart.
And with paranoia running rampant these days, this film definitely captures the national zeitgeist.
When last seen, Bourne (Matt Damon) had successfully back-tracked his actual identity, along with those responsible for the CIA training that transformed him into a hardened assassin. The victory was pyrrhic, as it left him without friends or a country. Convinced that the CIA would have him “erased,” he simply vanished.
Having remained off the grid for nearly a decade, Bourne has become a ragged, rootless shell, subsisting on meager earnings from underground bare-knuckle boxing matches. Damon’s grim features are weary and despondent during this introductory montage: the quiet despair of a man lacking purpose.
Then, suddenly, a blast from the past: He gets a message from former CIA colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who — also long on the run — has joined a hacking collective with the goal of exposing CIA dirty tricks. Her quest has borne fruit: 30 years’ worth of black ops files that include Operation Treadstone — which “created” Bourne — and something new called “Iron Hand.”
Even more damning, Nicky has uncovered additional details pertaining to Bourne’s actual identity — David Webb — along with the strong suggestion that his father, Richard (Gregg Henry), was directly involved with Treadstone. This revelation lends context to another of Bourne’s still fragmented memories: something having to do with a long-ago lunchtime meeting with his father.