Jason Bourne. Jason Bourne. Jason Bourne.
Does that sound repetitive? Welcome to my problem with today’s movie, JASON BOURNE (2016), the fifth film in the Jason Bourne series, the fourth starring Matt Damon.
I mean, how many movies will it take for Jason Bourne to stop looking into his past and move on to something new? Apparently more than four, because this is Matt Damon’s fourth turn as the character and he’s still searching for answers. Yawn.
Which is too bad because I’m a fan of the Bourne series. I loved the first one, THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002) and enjoyed the next two as well, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007). I even enjoyed the one without Damon, which starred Jeremy Renner, THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012). That being said, with each successive film I grew wearier of their plots which were pretty much variations of the same premise- Jason Bourne coming out of hiding to learn the truth about his past and make life miserable for whichever nasty good-for-nothing CIA chief was in power at the time.
I’m sorry to say that this newest film in the series, JASON BOURNE– hey, how about that title? Score one for creativity! Let’s call this one– Jason Bourne!— offers nothing new and is exactly what I just described. It’s just hard to get excited about a movie in a series with the same exact plot of the films which came before it.
So here we go. In JASON BOURNE, former CIA operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is once more looking for answers about his past, this time about his deceased father’s involvement in his CIA recruitment. So once again Bourne comes out of hiding, and this time the CIA heavy who’s out to stop him in order to prevent Bourne from exposing their secret programs is CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones).
Dewey is assisted by his young protege, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), although as the story goes along, it becomes clear that the two don’t see eye to eye, as Dewey sees Heather as inexperienced, and Heather views Dewey as a dinosaur, and so both deal with Bourne on their own terms.
They also have at their disposal an assassin named Asset (Vincent Cassel) who has a history with Bourne and is only too happy to be the man asked to eliminate the former CIA operative.
The plot in this one revolves around Dewey’s shady dealings with a young social media mogul named Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). Dewey basically wants to use Kalloor’s technology to spy on eveyone, and this secret alliance is endangered when Bourne in his search for answers about himself uncovers information about this union.
JASON BOURNE gets off to a rather slow start as the first half of this film could have been directly lifted from any of the previous films and I wouldn’t have noticed. Nothing in the opening of this movie drew me in or got me excited about what was to come. I felt like I was watching the films I had already seen.
Things eventually do get better as finally the film begins to take on its own identity. About the time Bourne gets to London things pick up with one of the film’s better sequences where Bourne outsmarts both Dewey and Heather’s forces. It’s also about the time when it’s clear that Dewey and Heather are not working together, which is one of the more interesting dynamics of the film. And that’s because Heather is one of the more compelling characters in the movie, although she certainly is far from original. Most of this interest comes from Alicia Vikander’s performance.
The cast is decent. I’ve always enjoyed Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, but his performance here is like the rest of the movie: nothing I haven’t seen before. This movie is just screaming for a different plot. Put Jason Bourne in a different situation, for crying out loud! Have him try to save the world or something! Does he have to be stuck in the same God-forsaken plot in every Bourne movie? Apparently so. There’s nothing wrong with Damon’s performance, but the character does the same things he did in the previous films. He doesn’t even have any memorable lines.
The best peformance in the movie, hands down, belongs to Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee. Vikander made a big splash in the science fiction film EX MACHINA (2015). She also starred in THE DANISH GIRL (2015), and I liked her a lot in the underrated THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015) She’s excellent here once again. Granted, there’s nothing all that special about her character, Heather Lee. But Vikander gives her a nice combination of icy professionalism with chiseled sexuality.
Tommy Lee Jones is actually very good as CIA Director Robert Dewey. He makes Dewey quite the despicable villain, and he does it effortlessly, as you would expect from someone with Jones’ talent and experience. It’s just too bad the character is the same exact type of CIA villain that all the Bourne films have had.
And Vincent Cassel makes for a formidable foe for Jason Bourne as the assassin Asset, but since the title of the is film is JASON BOURNE, there’s little doubt as to which character will have the upper hand here.
JASON BOURNE was directed by Paul Greengrass, who directed the second and third films in the series, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. If he succeeds at anything it’s making the films look consistent. The style for all these films is the same.
There are the expected action scenes, but I was actually disappointed with the film’s centerpiece action sequence, the high speed chase through the streets of Las Vegas, where they destroy about 50 million cars along the way! Seriously, it’s insane how many cars they wipe out during this chase. All without any bloodshed. Imagine that! I should have loved this scene, but it was edited with such quick edits that I often found the action happening too quickly, so much so that I almost had to turn away at times. It was a case where I was noticing the camerawork which is not a good thing. Had the camera moved in close to the action and remained there, rather than cutting this way and that, the scene would have had a grittier more realistic feel. As is, it plays like a swiftly edited television commercial.
The fight sequences were okay, but they certainly didn’t blow me out of the water.
The screenplay by director Greengrass and Christopher Rouse was meh. The biggest knock against it is it’s just not original. It’s a rehash of all Bourne films which came before it. The dialogue is nothing special either. Of course, their screenplay is based upon characters created by Robert Ludlum in his Bourne novels. So, I suppose one could argue that they were simply being true to the spirit of the Ludlum novels by not shaking things up here in their latest Bourne movie. I don’t know about that.
I do know, that this film would have been a better movie if, in the words of that other more famous spy from the other side of the ocean, its plot and its characters had been shaken, not stirred.