Director: Paul Greengrass (2016) BBFC cert 12A
Matt Damon returns to the action treadmill for a fourth outing as the amnesiac assassin in this flat fifth episode of the franchise.
He was already an Oscar winning star when he powered 2002’s The Bourne Identity to usher in a new wave of inventively violent thrillers grounded in the real world.
Here references to whistleblower Edward Snowden and wikileaks sit beside a social media entrepreneur and European democratic protests.
The impact on cinema was to invigorate the competition and in 2006 Daniel Craig duly wowed the world as a gritty James Bond in Casino Royale.
So it’s curious at a time when Craig is supposedly stepping out of 007’s tux, the 45 year old Damon is jumping back into the fray.
He’s in tremendous physical shape and grimly charismatic but there is a sense of what was once the future is now past its best.
The plot reheats the familiar routine of global games of violent cat and mouse. Tommy Lee Jones is the grizzled new CIA director wanting Bourne dead and Alicia Vikander is his ambitious analyst who has murky motives for helping our hero. There’s even a new black ops programme named Ironhand in the works.
Fundamentally the story is of the CIA engaging a huge amount of time and resources to pursue a vendetta against its own former operatives in order to protect what we must laughably call its good name.
This leaves the audience as bemused bystanders to a purely internal affair with no investment in the outcome.
There is no sex, romance, drugs, booze or even coffee in the life of the humourless and puritan patriot, making Bourne difficult to root for.
Previously uncovered secrets of Bourne’s personal history are uncovered to jumpstart the plot. It’s a desperate move reminiscent of Charles Bronson’s Deathwish (1974-1994) series which went to increasingly ludicrous lengths to find new family and friends to sacrifice in order the vigilante could once more shoot bad guys with impunity.
Greengrass gives the action some impact and the stunt crew earn their bonus. Athens stages a brilliant riot but by the time Bourne is gambling his life on the streets of Las Vegas, I’d forgotten why I ever cared.