Jason Bourne

Paul Greengrass

So now it’s Jason, first name terms at last.  Except of course it isn’t Jason at all, but David, a name and identity our hero is coming nearer and nearer to understanding and reintegrating with. Spiritually lost and anonymous, he’s living a life of the most basic and perhaps most  innocent form of physical, violent survival, bare-knuckle fighting in Eastern Europe. And he seems to keep winning. Meanwhile over at the screens in CIA central they’re still desperately looking for him, with every tracking device known to man and woman and the power to reach out to every form of communication to locate, pursue and catch him. At one end is Alicia Vikander, severe and serious as a grammar school head girl to Tommy Lee Jones’ dead-eyed chief, craggy and hollow as the old oak tree waiting for that last lethal storm. At the other end of the ‘catch Bourne’ trail lounges Vincent Cassell, hanging about in dark hotel rooms watching football on TV waiting for the call, louche and deadly as ever, seemingly the only assassin capable of the job, as he’s flung around the continent, then the world, in pursuit.

It’s on the face of it an intelligent plot that keeps us on board with just enough set-piece perilous encounters and mystery to ensure we don’t really notice how preposterous it all is – what is so very special about Bourne that he can’t just be liquidated in what I’m sure is the time-honoured CIA way? Greengrass is a real whizz at action sequences, breathtaking and realistic in a verité, jolting camera way that makes you think they’re happening in our real world.  Though he’s becoming so enamoured of them himself that that they sometimes outstay their welcome. An interminable 3-way pursuit through the bleak modernistic office landscapes of Paddington Basin loses its suspense down one too many slick grey walkways, and in the climactic chase scene the splintering chaos of multl-coloured, glamorous cars race through Vegas becomes for me, as well as exhausting, eventually, well, boring.  

In the end it’s not the high tech firearms or crashing  metal of gleaming cars that does for Cassell and sees Jason live to grimace another day, but a good old fashioned fist fight, his skills honed in all those dusty corners of Eastern Europe  Look at those cavemen go.

It’s a kind of antiBond. No sex.  No jokes. And Greengrass’s love for resonant contemporary locations means that while the latest Bond opened on a glamorous carnival square in South  America, the first big scene here lands us in a very authentic looking Syntagma Square in Athens in the middle of an anti-government riot. Snowden’s name is dropped, and Riz Ahmed’s Zuckerberg/Jobs cyber prince about to be compromised lends yet another nudge to the relevance of it all. This is relevant stuff, it announces, a kind of action movie for the serious, politically aware audience, showing the contemporary world of those in power as an irredeemably cold and morally bankrupt place.  Not to mention the father/son theme, a staple of fiction from Oedipus to Eastenders. It all adds interesting strands, with Bourne halfway between a real, tight-lipped hero for our times of surveillance and betrayal and a superhero who can dodge a marksman’s bullets and fall from a second-storey and get up to mysteriously disappear in a trice. Very enjoyable as its happening, yes, but not that memorable.

Sunderland July 2016





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