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The Bourne quest for identity resumes
NINE years after swimming away from another near-death experience as a super assassin with serious memory lapses, Matt Damon is Bourne again.
In Jason Bourne, the fifth instalment of the action-packed spy thriller franchise (and the fourth featuring him), disturbing truths about how and why Bourne was recruited by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and trained as a killing machine are finally revealed.
"I remember everything," says Bourne at the start of the new film, but just in case we don't, a flashback sequence is there to refresh the memory. The rest is a return to the frenzied, fast-paced and hyper-real narrative that fans of the series will be familiar with.
Directed by frequent Bourne collaborator Paul Greengrass, who previously helmed The Bourne Supremacy (2014) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2009), Jason Bourne is - if not a complete return to form - at least a welcome two hours of escapist summer entertainment.
Much of the film, written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, takes place in the technology-filled, social media-driven environment that is a heightened version of the real world. Sure, the covert spy activity and mega-car chases may not be part of our daily routine, but much else - the anti-government demonstrations, the hacking into government computers for classified information and the use of high-tech equipment for nefarious purposes - are all too familiar in actual news cycles.
Once again, Bourne is up against a powerful enemy in the form of his one-time employers at the CIA, who are wary of his unpredictable rogue capabilities and uncanny ability to stay a step ahead of efforts to finally "close his account".
Bourne has been living off the grid for years, staying sharp and earning a living as a member of the bruising bare-knuckle fight circuit. He still has a stack of fake passports and a pressing need to uncover more about his personal history, especially the incident surrounding the death of his father (Gregg Henry), a former CIA employee who may have had something to do with his son's involvement in Treadstone, the black-ops programme to train assassins.
Former Treadstone contact and current Internet activist Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA mainframe, contacting Bourne with information that could shed light on his past. Their meeting, during a chaotic mass demonstration in Athens, is detected by ambitious surveillance specialist Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), whereupon her boss CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) unleashes The Asset (Vincent Cassel), a man who shares with Bourne a prodigious talent for killing and a major aversion to dialogue.
Also in the mix are computer hacker Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer), who has been working with Nicky to publish the secret CIA files online, and Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), a social-media mogul with a new app named Deep Dream that could have some dangerous implications for billions of users.
Apart from the Athens segment, complex-yet-seamless set-pieces take place in Berlin and London, culminating in an unlikely six-minute sequence along the main boulevard in Las Vegas, where dozens of cars are totalled in a bid to achieve can-you-top-this status. Car-chase action is fun if you can get it, but that's not the raison d'etre for this series. This time around, Bourne stops at nothing to uncover the secret that might finally bring him peace of mind - although you can't help but hope for him to have just a few more dirty secrets left to find.