Overall this is a disappointment.
There are interesting pieces to the film. Director Paul Greengrass manages to hold together the suspense longer than he should without a substantive plot. Even some of the chase scenes are brisk and visually well done.
This film is betrayed by the story, which falls on its face like a drunk in a hurdle race the moment the final act kicks in. The reason for this is the massive hole where an antagonist should be. Jason Bourne is not matched up against anyone except himself. This works in books but not on film (ever ask why film adaptations are hardly ever like the books they’re based on?)
Without a central, forceful bad guy the film becomes nothing more than a series of events. This is common now in Hollywood films. It’s content-free filmmaking. A McMovie.
The only clear antagonist is (the secondary antagonist) Kirill played by Karl Urban. The problem is Kirill has no solid motivation to place him against Bourne. Why does he want Bourne dead? Why was Bourne hired to kill the Russian politician all those years ago? Are they connected? Why?
Technically, the main antagonist is Ward Abbott (Brian Cox performing the same role he played in The Ring, X-Men 2, Troy and Super Troopers.) Ward is not revealed as the true bad guy until late in the second act. Holding off on this reveal leaves Bourne fighting straw men in the absence of Kirill who disappears until the third act. This is how one structures a content-free film.
The film spends too much time building the female characters – Nicky (played by Julia Stiles) and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen.) The fact that they’re women is not relevant – what is relevant is the character’s importance to the plot. Pamela is functional in getting Bourne from place to place while putting the needed pressure on Abbott. She can stay if she develops a personality. I’m still not certain why we bother with Nicky. This character could have been melded into Pamela’s character or one of the secondary characters without much effort.
The final showdown between Kirill and Bourne is the biggest let down. The final car chase is shot too tightly and edited too spastically. It is important to allow the action to flow. The cars are moving quite fast, their speed can carry a scene without the MTV editing. The final death of Kirill is actually boring to me because I didn’t care. I was happy to see Karl Urban stop acting.
Final thought, whose idea was it to let Matt Damon do this series? He looks like he should be buying a pony keg for the underage members of his frat, not fighting international spy agencies.
This is worth the rental, if you have a coupon.