Hacking. War in Syria. Financial crisis in Greece. Eh.
Within the first ten minutes or so of Jason Bourne, it’s as if the film has smacked you around the face with a glove—or, knowing Bourne, perhaps that should be “stabbed you with a pencil” or “garrotted you with a plastic bag”—labelled RELEVANT ISSUES. Any one of these global issues would be fine to involve in the plot, but it comes across as either desperate or overzealous, or both, when all three are shoehorned in. In one scene, watching a satellite feed from a CIA control room, Alicia Vikander says imperiously, “Enhance”, and like magic, the grainy pictures refine to show a picture of the man himself. But this isn’t the Bourne who thrilled us a decade and a half ago.
I don’t mean to do Paul Greengrass down; Bloody Sunday remains one of the few films I have seen that made people cry in the cinema, and the original Bourne series was undeniably excellent. But, as a friend of mine pointed out, the series is now a victim of its own success. What used to be new and fresh—think shaky cam, improvised weapons, mass surveillance, urban European settings—is now decidedly old-hat.
There was a point in the mid-Noughties where Bourne was supreme over Bond; even Daniel Craig’s Bond was influenced by the brutality and make-do tactics of the franchise in Casino Royale, forgoing gadgets in favour of drowning a man in a loo. In recent years, with the exception of the unacceptably awful Spectre, Bond has been back on top, adapting and changing where Bourne seems devoid of new ideas. Jason Bourne is a man who can kill with almost anything to hand, but even he needs to find some new tricks if the Bourne series is going to go anywhere.