‘Jason Bourne’ Doesn’t Pack a Killer Punch, Retreads Familiar Ground

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The original trilogy of Bourne movies brought the spy genre into the 21st Century at time when James Bond was losing steam. After the conclusion of the original trilogy, star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass seemed content in walking away from the amnesiac superspy. Following an underwhelming effort to try and pass the Bourne torch to a new leading man, Damon and Greengrass have had a change of heart, as can happen when a franchise hungry studio backs up a Brinks truck full of cash for another installment in the Bourne saga with Jason Bourne, the fourth time Damon has taken center stage and the third time Greengrass and Damon have done Bourne. If there was a case to be made for the future adventures of Jason Bourne, Jason Bourne doesn’t make a very compelling one, as the film is a fairly redundant retread of the previous movies without the moments intense violent spectacle that made the series one of the premiere action franchises of recent memory.

In the years since The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne (Damon) has been content living a life of silence and earning a living as a fighter, pummeling muscle-bound stranger in a single blow on the border between Albania and Greece. Meanwhile, Bourne’s former associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is hacking into the CIA’s mainframe, copying the agency’s files on black ops. Nicky’s cyber intrusion into the CIA’s computers arouses the attention of Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a young and tech savvy agent eager to please CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). The CIA taints the stolen files with malware, which soon leads the agency’s assassin, simply known as Asset (Vincent Cassel) to a reunited Bourne and Parsons. Introduced with a whole new set of questions of his past, Bourne must once again seek answers with the deadly forces of the CIA on his trail.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Jason Bourne is the fact that the film really wants to operate more as some kind of techno-thriller rather than a spy adventure. Bewilderingly, Greengrass casts the vibrant actress Alicia Vikander only to have the script that he co-wrote with his long-time editor Christopher Rouse constrain the actress with scene after scene of staring at a computer screen, narrating the film’s action occurring in another part of the world.

Meanwhile, much of the film’s story revolves around the question of security and privacy, with CIA Director Dewey pressuring a tech company headed by Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) into giving the agency a backdoor into his social network so the CIA can monitor all online activity. This is something with potential to be politically relevant in the ongoing debate of privacy and security, but the film fails to give Dewey much in the way of motivation aside from “security” and Tommy Lee Jones gives the impression that he couldn’t be bothered to add any depth to character. So all the events of Jason Bourne don’t carry much dramatic weight because it’s just another example of Jason Bourne having questions about his past while getting into violent encounters with shadowy figures. You know, the exact same thing as the other three movies without much of a reason to care.

There are two good set pieces in Jason Bourne – a motorcycle chase through a riot in Greece and the climactic chase through the Las Vegas Strip. Through these scenes Paul Greengrass reasserts his dominance over the style of chaos cinema. The judicious edits of co-writer Rouse allow the action to be felt more than it is seen. Yet even when the film gets these moments at their maximum effectiveness they’re still undermined by predictable story beats. One moment in particular which is not included in detail here to withhold any potential spoilers fails to register on an emotional level due to its predictability; it feels more like a scene that occurs out of an obligation to make the plot more propulsive.

A good portion of the film (as with the others) deals with flashbacks of Bourne’s hazy past. In this film, most of those flashbacks are dedicated to Bourne’s father (played by Gregg Henry). It’s a minor miracle that this movie isn’t entitled The Bourne Paternity. Therein lies one of the great deficiencies of Jason Bourne – we’ve explored his past over the course of three movies. Jason Bourne needed to find a way to take the series in a new direction while touching on the past. It simply fails in these regards, operating as rehash devoid of imagination. Where the first three Bourne movies brought the spy genre into the 21st Century, Jason Bourne seems as stagnant as countless other would-be blockbusters trying to recapture the past for box office dollars today.

The ballyhooed reunion of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass fails to live up to expectations as Jason Bourne lacks the punch of their previous collaborations. Even the moments that land on a visceral level aren’t very interesting from a story perspective, and the almost mute Damon makes Bourne as uninteresting as he’s ever been. Without a doubt, Jason Bourne is the weakest of the films led by Damon. This was a sequel intended to revitalize the Bourne franchise, but with this kind of unimaginative thinking behind the movie, perhaps Jason Bourne proves there wasn’t much gas left in the tank for the once high-octane franchise.

Jason Bourne
  • Overall Score
2

Summary

More or less a rehash of previous Bourne movies, Jason Bourne doesn’t pack as much punch as the other movies that have teamed Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass.

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