This is a smooth thriller for grown-ups. That means it has lots of chase scenes and action scenes but the mood is dark, even grim. The dialogue is smart but not smart-alecky. No one wears a dinner jacket and there are no nuclear scientists trapped in the body of a swimsuit model.
Instead of flashy fights where one dazzling kick to the throat knocks the bad guy out for good, the battles are messy and breathless and brutal. The chase scenes are like extreme bumper cars. And the primary pleasure is not some big save-the-world triumph, just the fun of seeing smart people outsmarted.
In the first episode, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is rescued from the ocean, shot but still alive. He can remember how to speak in many languages and how to kill someone a dozen different ways but he does not remember who he is. He does not remember who is after him. Or why.
The last movie lift him with a girl he loved and what seemed like a lifetime guarantee of being left alone on the beach to try to recover the rest of his lost memories and make some new and better ones. But happily ever after doesn’t make for a good sequel, so as this movie opens, someone is after him again. The CIA believes he was behind a recent assassination of two agents. CIA big shots Pamela Landry (Joan Allen), who is new to the mysterious Treadstone operation and Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), who knows more than he wants to tell, work together to try to track him down, though perhaps they have different purposes and goals.
Bourne still remembers very little of what went on before he was fished out of the water. But now finding out is a matter of life or death.
Allen strides around in long, cool, black Matrix-style coats and Damon is nicely inexorable and relentless. Julia Stiles adds punch as Bourne’s former liaison to the Agency. She explains how the Treadstone operatives worked: “They don’t make mistakes. They don’t do random.” When asked who is assigning Bourne’s targets, she says, “Scary version? He is.” Damon doesn’t get to do much acting but delivers a servicable performance in what is a servicable movie. Like its title character, it does the job. And the last exchange of dialogue tops it all off nicely.
Parents should know that the movie has themes of betrayal and intense and graphic violence, including bloody injuries. Characters are killed and one commits suicide. Characters drink and a character gets drunk in response to stress. There is some strong language and some intrusive product placement.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Bourne wanted to see Irena. Abbott says that “Conklin had these guys wound so tight they had to bust.” What are the risks of training an operative like Bourne? Of not having one?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original The Bourne Identity and other spy thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and The Parallax View and the superb PBS miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.