Jason Bourne is back with a vengeance, overshadowing, out-running and over-thinking modern mayhem movies. Into the midst of summer bursts Bourne -- smart, edgy, ambivalent about its mission but not its message -- both cinematic and political.
Jason Bourne rigorously rises above the fatigued formulaic fare of summer -- the indefensible Independence Day, Star Trek dreck and a rather tired Tarzan. With all these hapless re-runs, it is small wonder that audiences have been finding solace in family films. There is a certain electricity in the Bourne films that escapes most other action films. Sure there are the requisite scenes of carnage -- gun battles, car chases and mano-a-mano fisticuffs. But these set pieces are done with more precision, more trigger finger editing and cross-cutting -- not just louder, more splashy pyrotechnics.
Through the cameras of veteran Bourne Director Paul Greenglass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum), Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (Hurt Locker) and editor Christopher Rouse (Captain Phillips), the flow of action is breathtakingly swift and crisp, guiding our eyes over the spaces between action and narrative that the viewer is required to fill in themselves. Action scenes are not passive viewing experiences, but interactive skeletons, challenges to bridge the gaps and infill detail. They draw us in, rather than bludgeon our senses out.
The stellar cast of Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Julia Stiles (Silver Linings Playbook) and Riz Ahmed (Night Crawler) provide a fine balance of characters. Stiles and Cassel are the poles of good and evil, between which Damon, Jones, Vikander and Ahmed play out the moral ambivalences of a world where security is the exchange for loss of liberty. Of course there is right and wrong in this game. But one cannot always be too sure who is carrying which ball and even how it is we are to score.
Fortunately these ambiguities are set in visual splendor. Bourne films hone the James Bond developed tradition of travelogue action backdrops. From Reykjavik to Athens to Berlin to London to Las Vegas, these sets are vibrant, lush and threatening, with dueling elements of familiarity and menace, light and darkness.
The plot chases its characters across the globe, searching to weave Jason Bourne's relationship with his father to his government's spy agency geopolitical objectives.
Spun off the Robert Ludlum trilogy, the Bourne franchise continues to raise questions not only about its hero's personal history, but about United States government agency actions throughout the world with regard to security and hegemony. As Jason Bourne continues his search for identity, we seek the transparency to keep our country's role one of democracy.