It’s been twelve years since Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Supremacy forever changed action filmmaking, ushering in a new age of fast-paced, shaky-cam cinema that seems to anger just as many as it entertains. But, nine years after saying they wouldn’t return to the franchise, Greengrass and Damon are back with a sequel so by-the-numbers they should have named it The Bourne Redundancy.
This time Bourne is called out of retirement (again) when his CIA friend Nicky tracks him down at his local fight club, having ditched the Agency to start leaking their secrets like Edward Snowden (namechecked, though no-one remembers Chelsea Manning for some reason), in the first of many attempts at relevancy despite already covering this ground in Damon’s last film, which beat Snowden and friends to the punch by six years. This earns her the ire of Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander, two CIA officers who make Gordon Freeman look like a towering force of personality, who send Vincent Cassel (even blander) to kill the two. While all this is happening the founder of a social media startup played by Riz Ahmed, who it’s always nice to see getting work, is planning to blow the whistle on the CIA’s involvement in his business.
The crippling flaw at the heart of this movie is that it’s incredibly difficult to care about anything that happens. The cast are without exception boring as tar, rendering the central conflict equally so. There’s a subplot about Bourne’s dad which flops the same way, as dad gets less than a minute of screentime and two lines while Bourne has all the personality of a piece of cardboard. It gets so bad that during the climactic car chase I repeatedly forgot who the bad guy was and why Bourne was chasing him. There’s also a major plot point stolen wholesale from an earlier entry in the series to the point of almost making me scream obscenities in the middle of a packed theatre.
The filmmakers also don’t seem to understand the internet they base much of the plot around. As well as the usual tedious scenes of characters staring intently at monitors while dramatic music plays, everything about Riz Ahmed’s character is astoundingly vague. His social media platform is never defined for the audience, he gives press conferences full of general statements about the internet and privacy without ever saying anything, and part of the film takes place at a nebulous ‘technology’ conference, the purpose of which is never stated (although the director of the CIA is giving a speech for some reason).
I’ve largely lost interest in Greengrass’ style of action filmmaking after twelve years of imitators, though my hearing loss during this period may partially account for my distaste for a very sound design-dependent style of fight scenes. This film’s action is technically very similar to prior entries, though Bourne has become seemingly indestructible in his absence. In one fight scene that happens for literally no reason he takes repeated blows to the head from a dumbbell and doesn’t even lose consciousness, and a bullet to the gut briefly phases him before he handily tosses a grown man eight feet twenty minutes later. Bourne’s gadgetry also seems to fall from the trees in this one. At one point he finds himself by a stall with a bowl of free tracking devices to take away, and another has concealable cameras for him to shoplift (all of which come fully charged).
This is a really quite bad movie, but (aside from one scene) just by lacking anything of interest rather than being actively offputting. I’d never recommend watching it (even on Netflix) but honestly if I even remember anything that happened a week from now I’d be surprised.