Jason Bourne (2016)
You know his name
I’m the first to admit that I’m not the biggest Bourne fan around. To be totally honest, I don’t actually know how many Bourne films there are just off the top of my head … about four? I’ve seen the first couple of chapters based around Matt Damon’s CIA assassin dealing with a killer case of amnesia, but after director Paul Greengrass got me feeling ill with his signature shaky-cam style of filmmaking in 2004’s second episode, The Bourne Supremacy, I decided to skip the later installments altogether — even though director Tony Gilroy helmed the fourth flick, The Bourne Legacy (2012). So, here I am, assigned with the daunting task of reviewing the latest Bourne feature, simply titled Jason Bourne. While I’m probably not the best person to be weighing up the material, I’m going to try my darnedest to deliver a subjective, unbiased write-up for all our readers.
For those whose Bourne knowledge might be little rickety (like myself), this new film takes place several years after 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum wrapped things up neatly, Damon’s character finding a semblance of peace after discovering his true identity and what he believed to be the goal of his creators’ campaign, with Bourne wreaking his revenge then seemingly vanishing forever.
Jason Bourne however, sees editor-turned-screenwriter Christopher Rouse conjure-up some dodgy back-story about Jason’s dad in order to get our leading man out of the shadows. As silly as it sounds, when we’re reacquainted with Jason Bourne (aka David Webb), he is at a nadir in his life, bare-knuckle boxing somewhere in the East European backwater, when he spots his old contact Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) in a crowd of onlookers. After Parsons delivers some contrived information about Bourne’s father — info she attained by casually hacking into the CIA and securing Black Ops files that go back some thirty odd years — Jason finds himself back on the grid, in a post-Snowden, WikiLeaks world, his sights set on uncovering more of his murky past whilst eluding capture (yet again) by the corrupt government officials hot on his trail.
There’s also a pointless subplot about a well-intentioned Mark Zuckerberg type of genius, Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), who’s being pressured by CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) into using his popular social media platform, Deep Dream, to gather people’s personal info — a narrative thread that doesn’t go anywhere nor tie into any of the Jason Bourne stuff. Look, I understand that this plot line was most likely included to make the flick feel more relevant, but in the end, it simply doesn’t amount to much.
So basically it’s business as per usual for Damon and Greengrass — there are shots of people nervously typing away at their computers, there’s a thumping music score as characters effortlessly zip across the globe, the camera following folks (we don’t care about) from one location to the next. Sure, there are a couple of impressive action set pieces — a chaotic motorbike chase through the rioting streets of Athens and a chilling pursuit through the Las Vegas strip — but Greengrass’ hand-held technique makes these bone-rattling sequences very difficult to follow … or enjoy. Shots are out of focus, chaotic and completely incoherent. What’s more, gone is the series’ thought provoking narrative, the plot (this time) being about as clunky as a second rate Bond film with clichéd writing and lines such as ‘don’t make this personal,’ scattered throughout. From what I understand, Damon and Greengrass walked away from an unscathed trilogy nine years ago, thus I’m finding it very difficult to understand how this particular story (where nothing overly significant happens) was reason enough to continue the saga — Oh no, Bourne’s dad was murdered! I don’t know … seems like they’re kinda clutching at straws.
Over on the acting front, Jason Bourne is pretty stock standard. Matt Damon (who last played the Robert Ludlum-created character nine years ago) is ‘alright’ as the brooding amnesiac, despite the fact that I found the guy to be somewhat unlikable this time around — Bourne destroying property and killing innocent bystanders in his endeavor to fulfill a personal vendetta. From memory, Jason Bourne was always portrayed as a broken man, one who was searching for answers to reclaim his humanity — by the looks of things, getting his identity back hasn’t humanized the dude at all. Going that one step further, he’s kinda portrayed like the Terminator here, getting hit, knocked about and thrust around, only to get up, dust himself off and keep on going.
Franchise newcomer Alicia Vikander, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), looks a little miscast as Heather Lee, an ambitious CIA upstart who’s trying to devise a way to bring Jason back into the light, while Vincent Cassel, Black Swan (2010), is completely wasted as a nameless Euro-assassin (simply known as Asset) who’s hell-bent on putting a bullet in Bourne’s noggin. Elsewhere, Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive (1993), chews up the scenery with speeches about national security whereas Riz Ahmed, Four Lions (2010), has little to do as the head of Deep Dream bar quarrel with Jones’ Dewey over the dangers of their covertly developed surveillance program, codenamed Iron Hand.
At the end of the day, Jason Bourne doesn’t really justify its own existence. The action scenes are okay (in a vomit inducing sort of way), but beyond that, the flick is entirely generic and has nothing interesting to say. Look, I’m far from a Jason Bourne devotee, but if you ask me (even as a casual viewer), I’d say that Jason should have never been re-Bourne.
2.5 / 5 – Alright
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Jason Bourne is released through Universal Pictures Australia