Last seen in 2007, Jason Bourne is now living under the radar and off the grid, surviving as a bare knuckle fighter on the Greece-Albania border and scratching a living from winning these fights. Meanwhile former associate Nicky Parsons is hacking the CIA’s systems from Iceland and downloading highly classified documents on black ops, including Treadstone and its latest incarnation . The CIA is alerted to this security breach and Cyber Chief Heather Lee quickly plants a virus in the file which will alert them the next time the file is accessed. Parsons is also alerted the CIA is aware of her hacking and so begins the chase; the CIA want their fugitive Jason Bourne, and Jason Bourne is after the CIA to discover the truth about his father, his recruitment and Treadstone.
Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is as lethal as ever, honing his assassin and physical skills but not overly aware of the latest technological spy-craft developments the CIA has at its disposal. Accessing the hacked files allows another piece of the Bourne mystery to be investigated – the death of his father and the link between his father, Treadstone and Bourne’s recruitment. This forms the main narrative but is barely fleshed out. Much more could have been explored about Bourne’s past but instead it is sacrificed in favour of three huge set action pieces. There are riots and chases in Athens, chases in London and a final, climatic and almost never ending car chase in Las Vegas. There is no rapid or crisp editing to make the action scenes sharply defined but instead the shaky handheld camera movements means the action is confused. This camera work is not confined to the action and chase scenes but has been applied to the entire film, which can be disturbing to the viewer, marring enjoyment.
There is a highly topical sub plot concerning personal data security in a mobile app developed by whizz kid Aaron Kalloor (in a nod to Facebook creator Mark Zucherberg). He sold out to the CIA, agreeing to collect private data on his app users but has a crisis of conscience. The issue of online and mobile phone apps collecting and using such data is extremely topical, particular with the FBI almost taking Apple to court to access the locked iPhone of terrorist Syed Farook (San Bernadino shootings of last year). Again there is a missed opportunity as this hot topic becomes superfluous to the rest of the film, superseded by other high tech surveillance equipment that is used by Bourne.
There is little redemption offered to the CIA, even through Heather Lee. She is portrayed as idealistic and slightly naive. But even she is driven by a desire for promotion and to prove herself in a ruthless manner. In some ways there seems to be little redemption for America with the destruction of Vegas, which incidentally is first introduced to the viewer with a shot of ‘Trump’ tower – product placement or a social comment?
Overall the film falls short of expectations. The action is relentless as is the constantly shaking camera, all requiring an incredible suspension of disbelief and at the expense of an actual plot. No doubt Bourne will return again at some point and hopefully with not so much destruction in his wake.