Jason Bourne review: “Matt Damon is back and it’s superbly sustained, sweaty-palmed tension all the way”

The past catches up with the traumatised agent and puts him on a collision course with more CIA baddies in this action-drenched thrill-ride

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★★★★

Bourne is back with a vengeance and this time it’s the real deal at the heart of the globe-spanning mayhem. Matt Damon resumes the role that minted his action-hero credentials back in 2002 and launched a game-changing billion-dollar franchise that’s influenced everything from Bond to Batman.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yeVN-L76kw

Anyone underwhelmed by The Bourne Legacy (2012) with Jeremy Renner as a fellow ass-kicking agent on the run, can relax because Damon and Supremacy/Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass are back in the groove as though they’ve never been away.

At the end of 2007’s Bourne Ultimatum, Damon’s traumatised CIA assassin had discovered his real name and recalled how he ended up as the government’s go-to killing machine. “I remember. I remember everything,” he said. That’s what he thinks!

Our first glimpse of our now older, more weather-beaten hero is earning chump-change knocking out chumps in bareknuckle bouts on the Greek border. But just as things start to resemble a mopier version of Snatch, the brooding Bourne is enticed back into the spy game by fellow CIA runaway (and series regular) Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). “Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.”

Once in Athens for a crucial rendezvous, the breathless, exciting, globe-trotting style of the franchise explodes like never before, as a deep, dark family secret impels Bourne to go to Berlin, London and ultimately Las Vegas to get answers. Matched against him are Alicia Vikander’s hotshot CIA analyst (is she friend or foe?), Vincent Cassel’s cold-blooded killer and Tommy Lee Jones as the flinty director of the CIA (and Bourne’s chief nemesis, following in the first-class footsteps of Chris Cooper, Brian Cox and David Strathairn in the original trilogy).

As with the previous instalments he directed, Greengrass marshals the slickly edited action brilliantly while placing the taciturn spy in a contemporary post-Snowden world of invasive government surveillance, here involving Riz Ahmed’s seemingly right-on social media tycoon. The opening sequence, in which Bourne and Nicky are chased through post-austerity Athens during an incendiary citywide riot while being tracked by satellite, ups the ante in spectacular fashion.

From Athens onwards, it’s superbly sustained, sweaty-palmed tension all the way with Bourne striving to stay one step ahead until Vegas where the climactic car chase arguably knocks the spots off its fabulous predecessors – the destruction and action choreography continues to appear stunningly “real” rather than CGI fabrication.

Admittedly, the star’s fourth excursion as Robert Ludlum’s most famous creation has familiar beats, but it’s all done so well, thanks to immersive, breakneck action in great locations, a talented supporting cast and the magnetic presence of Damon.

The franchise may be 14 years old but it’s still a case of Bourne supremacy.

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Jason Bourne is in cinemas from Wednesday 27th July