Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) was a spy, created in a top secret scheme to fashion agents who would be able to operate at somewhere near perfection without any guilt to hold them back - nor any memories as Bourne struggled to recall who he was for some time. Now he is well aware he is actually David Webb, son of a C.I.A. operative whose idea this project was, though as far as he knows his father was assassinated. Currently Bourne is in Greece, making his living, such as it is, as a bare knuckle boxer and lying low in a way that suggests he will never raise his head above the parapet of international conspiracies ever again. However, one of his allies is Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and she needs to contact him again, with grave news...
You might have thought there was nothing more to be said about the Bourne series of movies based on the writings of Robert Ludlum, especially since they had apparently run out of material with the third movie and the fourth effort, a spin-off starring Jeremy Renner, did not exactly set the world’s box office aflame with insatiable excitement. However, it seemed someone was clamouring for Damon and director Paul Greengrass to return to the franchise, and they were to a man and woman executives at Universal for whom the trilogy continued to be a most lucrative property, so they were both persuaded when a gap appeared in their respective schedules to concoct a brand new instalment.
While this, as anticipated, once again made a lot of profit, big name, big budget action flicks being hard to mess up financially as they were such reliable money makers across the globe, the fans were grumbling because the eponymous spy was not as impressive as before in their opinion. Having left the Ludlum sources behind, the plot tended to flounder with a flood of high tech references in a desperate-looking attempt to come across as cutting edge as far as the hardware of modern surveillance went, all intended to offer a gloss on what was really just a dose of punch-up heavy thickear. It was the action sequences you found yourself gravitating towards, especially when the stuff in between was so formulaic.
When Greengrass let fly with the fast-cutting, fast fists and fast cars, the film sprang to life, but there were really only two sections where that applied, one amid a Grecian riot near the start and the other, obviously the grand finale, set in Las Vegas. You could certainly see where the budget had gone in those setpieces alone, as the initial one where Bourne and Nicky do their best to escape the ever-present cameras of Tommy Lee Jones' C.I.A. chief and more pressingly, hitman Vincent Cassel's murderous intentions, demonstrated the director's ability with an impressive pursuit, this one on a motorbike weaving through the fires of the protest, and the protesters too for that matter. The finale where Cassel was hounded through the Vegas strip, cars flying out of the way as he ploughed through them, was similarly invigorating.
But then there was all the business with Bourne discovering his father's secret and the identity of those who had him killed, nothing that came as a huge shock for it was a subject that could have been taken care of in the prologue, leaving the rogue agent all the time he needed to devise a way of... what? Getting revenge? Ensuring nothing like this ever happened to anyone else? Something like that, yet when the story was largely drawn from plot points of the previous movies you were struggling with less a sense of welcome familiarity and more a "Seen it all before" sigh. Though Damon was the strong, silent type here, he was representative of a series of storyline stages to get through rather than a convincing personality, which left him a curious cypher in the great scheme, a vacuum where a more charismatic individual battling the massive behemoth of a system would have made for a compelling protagonist, more compelling than the one we got. Although Alicia Vikander was weighed down with a flavourless role as a C.I.A. agent, indicative of the lack of grasp on character, that action did lift this and made it a shade more worthwhile than your average straight to DVD bargain bin effort. But the effects were much the same. Music by David Buckley and John Powell.