The Bourne Paternity
Whatever bias had the prophets of decline who wrote bad reviews of this movie, or whatever movie they might have seen instead, they were wrong. When had been a quadrilogy that consistently good? The Bourne Identity reinvented a genre, The Bourne Supremacy relegated James Bond in the English Heritage theme park hé so deservingly belongs to, The Bourne Ultimatum cemented the Bourne action franchise as the best and most earnest ever. Jason Bourne completes the cycle but is a different movie altogether: there is nothing to prove anymore, yet the character unflinchingly, unsmilingly played by Matt Damon is missing a crucial part of his own existence. He got the How, the When and the Who. What he has left to do is to understand the Why. Would this Why only be a filial quest, it would be a run-of-the-mill American story. But this time around, the backdrop of Jason Bourne’s formidable action scenes is societal. Chaotic. And this chaos is impeccably filmed by Paul Greengrass.
Jason Bourne is the genie nobody can force back into the bottle, whatever charm or violence is used against him, not before he understand what’s going on. He’s “pulled out of retirement” by Niki Parsons (Julia Stiles, aging gracefully), that is, if taking part in a fight club on the Armenian/Greek border is your idea of retirement. Bourne needs violence, he is violence, bubbling under Matt Damon’s preppy charm. Anyone behaving like that has a death wish, and this fourth opus is by far the darkest and meanest of the franchise. The action scene in Athens starts during a protest against the IMF and Greece’s creditors on Syntagma Square and after twenty breathless minutes it ends on affliction. Bourne’s death wish once again turns against what he holds dearest: deflecting death is a reflex for him, or rather to the killing machine the CIA has trained him to be.
A brief sequence reunites Bourne and Berlin (one could almost see the “Welcome Back Jason” banners) on the Alexanderplatz, during another protest, before he’s off to London for another gripping action scene. Four parallel courses of action take place simultaneously, and following them is effortless. Spatial logic is respected, instant decisions are made for better or worse and one can relate to each of them. The sequence is a model of suspense and clarity. It includes another chassé-croisé with the new girl on the CIA block (Alicia Vikander, icy), on whom her boss (Tommy Lee Jones, what else to say?) is pulling rank. Tommy Lee Jones is the only one who smiles during the movie, and this smile is of the professional courtesy kind. It’s scary and rather horrid.
By that point in the movie one was struck how much the language of espionnage emulates the dialect of finance. There are assets, insurance policies, accounts to be closed. Jason Bourne is the human factor, the spanner in the works of a monstrous machine churning profitability at the global scope. Jason Bourne is that good old Schumpeter, creatively destroying everything on his way. He gets back to the USA, where the final showdown has to take place. You know what they say, “what happens in Vegas remains in Vegas”? Well, there was no better place to end this franchise. Gambling, mad money, secrecy, with the contemporary seasoning of an IT mogul being treated like a rock star during a business convention turned assassination attempt. Jason Bourne has an idea or two behind its phenomenal action, not far of those treated in Money Monster, as bitter as it is relentless (weirdly, both movies have Icelandic hackers).
The mandatory car chase is mayhem on The Strip, a massive car pile-up ending in the desecration of the Riviera casino. The brutality of the scene exceeds its vicious Moscow companion piece in The Bourne Supremacy. By understanding the Why, Bourne has gotten rid of his death wish, but he’s still a merciless instrument of retribution and death. A last, ill-advised attempt is made to bring the elite killer back into the CIA’s lap. But he’s no longer that, he’s just him by then.
One saw some positive reviews modulating their praise by “Please, no more!”. Of course there won’t be more Bourne. The man has ridden alone in the sunset like the lonesome cowboy he is. But please, pretty please, more of that stuff, for this is the right one.