REVIEW: Jason Bourne (12A) *****

Almost 15 years since the bullet-riddled body of Jason Bourne was dragged from the sea in The Bourne Identity, the amnesiac assassin returns with a vengeance in the fifth chapter of the action-packed espionage saga.

Friday, 29th July 2016, 6:00 am
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. PA Photo/Universal.

Director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon return to their roles behind and in front of the camera, providing consistency to a series that has frequently put the exploits of James Bond in the shade.

The latest instalment delivers breathlessly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, dizzying chases and a jaw-dropping sequence of automotive carnage along the Las Vegas strip that - unthinkably - trumps the thrilling resolution to The Bourne Supremacy.

Like the lead character, who has been slowly piecing together fragments of his tortuous past, Greengrass’ film is lean, muscular and bruising for a fight – to the death if necessary.

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Jason Bourne (Damon) believes he knows how the US government moulded him into a trained killer as part of Operation Treadstone.

He is living off the grid on the Greek-Albanian border and posing as a bare-knuckle brawler.

Far away in Iceland, former contact Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) illegally accesses the CIA mainframe to download confidential files about Bourne’s former life as David Webb.

She discovers a shocking secret and resolves to share the data with the elusive operative.

‘We’ve just been hacked. Could be worse than Snowden,’ agent Craig Jeffers (Ato Essandoh) informs his boss, CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), once the breach is detected.

Ambitious protegee Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) plants malware that allows her to covertly track Nicky’s movements.

‘I will deliver Parsons, the files and – if he’s out there – I will give you Bourne too,’ Heather promises Dewey.

She dispatches a hit man, codename Asset (Vincent Cassel), to neutralise the targets.

Meanwhile, Dewey locks horns with technology guru Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) about invasions of privacy which allow the US government to spy on citizens.

Jason Bourne is a deceptive slow burn for the opening half hour, but once the script lights the fuse on manifold deceptions, there’s little time to breathe between plot revelations and bloodthirsty retribution.

Damon is in peak physical form for the gruelling action sequences and he tears at his character’s heart as the past returns to haunt him once more.

Oscar winner Vikander is a slippery adversary and she gels with a suitably strident Lee Jones as the man in power with plenty to hide.

Greengrass’ ability to mastermind daredevil thrills on a grand scale never ceases to astound.

Here, the mercurial Surrey-born director conceives one adrenaline-pumping set piece in the midst of a full-scale riot replete with exploding Molotov cocktails, rampaging protesters and police brutality that seems to be escalating wildly out of control.

Buckle up for a white-knuckle two hours.