Sunday, 11 September 2016

Jason Bourne by Greengrass & Rouse

Jason Bourne (note the initials, shared with a certain 007) was the creation of bestselling thriller novelist Robert Ludlum (1927-2001). Ludlum wrote a trilogy of novels about his amnesiac secret agent and the first three Bourne movies are nominally based on them. At least, they share the titles.

After Ludlum's death Eric Van Lustbader began writing new novels in the series. There are now ten of these, the first of which was The Bourne Legacy.

This is the title of the best of the Bourne movies to date, as I discussed last week, although the film wasn't based on Lustbader's novel and Jason Bourne isn't even in it...

I also mentioned last week that the two main creative minds behind the Bourne film series are director Paul Greengrass and writer/director Tony Gilroy.  

What happened on Legacy was that Greengrass declared he wasn't intersted in making another Bourne, so star Matt Damon dropped out, too.

But Tony Gilroy just went ahead and made a movie anyway... and a great one... without Bourne and without Damon.

But now it's all change. Greengrass has changed his mind and is back on board, Damon is, too, and — for the first time in the franchise — Gilroy is absent. Instead Greengrass has co-written the screenplay with Christopher Rouse, his film editor on this and many other films.

Greengrass and Rouse have done a competent job. The movie works, and is thrilling and absorbing. But the lack of Gilroy — a truly world class screenwriter — definitely shows. The script has major holes in it... 

Why does Tommy Lee have four of his own agents murdered, when all had to do was call them off with a phone call? And how does Jason Bourne wander into a giant Las Vegas conference hall and immediately spot that there’s a sniper behind a grill in the wall at the back of the room? 

And then there's the annoying fact that everybody speaks in the same way (tersely replying "understood" to barked orders).

But the film's consistently compelling nonetheless, with an end-of -level fight which is much better than usual — actually almost gripping — and a car chase which really is gripping, thanks to the involvement of an armoured SWAT vehicle which ploughs through the cars of innocent bystanders, ripping them to shreds like a giant electric can opener. 

Full marks for revivifying these two tropes which almost always disappoint. And the reappearance of Moby’s song at the end was like having an old friend turn up. 

Plus I love the notion that the CIA keeps its black ops files in a folder labelled “Black Ops”...

Well worth praising is the cast, which includes Tommy Lee Jones as the big CIA bad guy, and the radiant Alicia Vikander, last seen in a very different spy movie, The Man From UNCLE. Here she is as wonderful as usual, though given precious little to work with. 

My main complaint with Jason Bourne is that nobody smiles during the whole damned film. And, as I said, Tony Gilroy's absence is a mistake. I believe the movie would have been better with his input. 

But still it held my attention from beginning to end. And when I saw it, I thought — as with Star Trek Beyond — Ah, at last here is a summer blockbuster which actually delivers the goods.

(Image credits: Thank you, Imp Awards.)

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