“Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything…”
After the unsatisfactory Bourne Legacy it was nice to hear that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass we’re teaming up again for the fourth film in the franchise. The plot, what there is of it, revolves around Richard Webb’s (the father of David Webb’s a.k.a. Jason Bourne) involvement in the Treadstone project and also a new CIA surveillance program related to the launch of a new social media platform Deep Dream. By also using anti-government riots in Greece and making references to the Snowdon case, the filmmakers ground the story in a contemporary reality where issues of privacy versus security are at the forefront of social debate.
That said, it is Bourne’s unresolved feelings towards the CIA and his need to dig deeper and deeper and scratch that itch that fuel the story. If he were ever to just shrug and walk away then the film would fall apart like a house of cards. It is therefore no surprise that the writers play their ace of spades in the form of a very personal revenge story. This ups the ante beyond the supposed resolution provided in The Bourne Ultimatum and gives our hero the motivation he needs to punch his way through another sequel. I say ‘punch’ rather than shoot because I’m not sure if Bourne actually ever shoots to kill – seems like he’d much rather violently disable people these days than kill them. The bad guys do all the shooting.
‘There’s no need to make this personal,’ I think Tommy Lee Jones says to the main bad guy played by Vincent Cassel (it’s a ‘how rough do you look’ competition between the two of them and in comparison Bourne looks buff) and he replies ‘it’s always been personal’. That’s the key I think to most good action films these days, or perhaps ever; it’s always personal. Cassel’s character, who is mostly referred to as ‘the asset’, sees Bourne as a traitor and given that he spent two years being tortured while being held by terrorists who captured him because of the information leaked by Bourne has all the necessary motivation to try and kill him any way he can – and lord knows he tries, bless him.
This is a very solid sequel and much better than the last film. It was great to see Julia Stiles reprising her role as Nicky Parsons and the film fits neatly onto to the end of the trilogy. The few very minor faults it has are easily forgiven.
Faults? Of course I’m going to pick at a few holes. Firstly the dialogue is weak at times, yes Bourne only says about 288 words but that’s not it, I’m talking about the exchanges between the CIA people and in particular one bit of dialogue between Alicia Vikander (took me awhile to recognise her from Ex Machina) and Jones which made zero sense and seemed to have a line missing. Also a hacker says ‘use SQL to corrupt their databases’ which made me laugh – coming close to topping the line in Jurassic Park ‘it’s a UNIX system, I know this…’. Sure naughty SQL code injection into an unpatched web server is a bone fida hacking technique but would one hacker say that to another?
The physics is a bit up the spout during the final car chase and I’m sure I saw one car flip before the SWAT van got anywhere near it. Bourne is superhuman (but maybe we look to Legacy to explain that away) surviving many things that would hospitalise a mere mortal. Also, fancy laying out the tools Bourne needs to track and surveil his targets literally on stalls – I wasn’t sure whether this was cute or lazy screenwriting. Last but not least, scrape scrape, there’s some dodgy camera work in the scene where the CIA guys come up the escalator where the lens flattens out the perspective – it was only a second but it immediately brought me back to the sense of watching a film rather than being immersed in the story.
But like I said, these are minor gripes at a very good film. Better than Bond? Well certainly better than Spectre imo.