Who would have guessed that Robert Ludlam’s trilogy of novels would spawn an immensely popular $1.2 billion movie franchise? That’s what happened with the Jason Bourne series. It began in 2002 with “The Bourne Identity”. Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass would make three films together. Throw in 2012’s ill-advised “The Bourne Legacy” (minus Damon and Greengrass) and that brings us to 2016 and the latest film, the generically titled “Jason Bourne”.
You could say it is an odd and unexpected return not only of Damon and Greengrass but of the series itself. The Jason Bourne character has lied dormant for nine years yet the new film is essentially a direct sequel to 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum”. You would think Greengrass (who also co-wrote the screenplay) had a big vision if he was bringing his lethal, conflicted amnesiac back out of the shadows. Turns out he really doesn’t. In fact, you could say that “Jason Bourne” follows the very familiar franchise blueprint.
But that’s not saying it’s a bad movie. In fact I think a lot of the initial quick-triggered criticisms are undeserved. “Jason Bourne” has many of the same ingredients as the first three films – a good cast, some intense pacing, a handful of impressive action scenes. At the same time it’s tough to overlook the fact that somethings are clearly missing in certain areas of the film.
One of those areas is the story itself. Again, it isn’t bad, but nothing about it feels particularly fresh or original when compared to the past Bourne pictures. Bourne (Damon) is mistakingly implicated in the hacking of a CIA database. The actual culprit is Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who unearths information that puts Bourne on yet another trail to find out more about his past. Hot on his heels is the ‘shoot first’ CIA led by their craggy director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and ambitious head of operations Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).
Greengrass’ story globetrots around the world and features several interesting locations including Greece, Iceland, Berlin, London, and Las Vegas. You’ll also see plenty of text messages, computer screens, and keyboard tapping. But one thing you won’t see is even the slightest hint of a smile. Every single character is stern, dour, moody, or downbeat. It tends to fit with the tone Greengrass is going for, but I couldn’t help but find the ever-present, super-serious expressions a bit amusing. And don’t think about the story too much. Question marks and plot holes are everywhere.
The film sports around three big action set pieces which are overshadowed by the slick, methodical, surveillance-based buildup leading to them. As has become commonplace in many films, the action is hacked to pieces in the editing room. Shaky cameras and quick cuts are disorienting. Perhaps it’s needed for a now older Matt Damon (the Liam Neeson action flicks incorporate the same method), but it’s still annoying. The one exception is the big finale – a fantastic edge-of-your-seat sequence in Las Vegas. Greengrass calms his camera down a tad and gives us an action scene that rivals anything in the first three pictures.
So what to make of “Jason Bourne”. It’s a movie with plenty of the Bourne elements fans will be expecting. It is a bit slow out of the gate, but when it gets its footing it falls right in line with the franchise. But that’s also why the film felt a bit stale and routine. It does nothing to step outside the franchise’s strict established bounds. Ultimately it doesn’t do enough to avoid feeling like a tacked on chapter to the Bourne story. Still a well made and fairly entertaining chapter, but nothing fresh and nothing that reenergizes the series after so many years away.
VERDICT – 3 STARS
Nice review, Keith. I’m not stirred enough to go to the movies for this. I’ll wait and rent it. Gosh, Matt is getting old, isn’t he?
I guess he is. It’s funny, the show a few photos of Bourne/Damon from the earlier films. The difference is profound. I guess you can say he has grown up in this role.
I found it a really disappointing entry in the series and acutally found the Las Vegas seen was something that felt out of place because it was completely unrealistic with that SWAT car being able to drive through a whole line of stationary cars without hardly a scratch. It wasn´t a tank! And agree that the story was very weak too and I still don´t understand how Nicky was able to locate Bourne so quickly whereas the government wasn´t able to.
Nicky locating Bourne was one of the gaping plot holes I was referring to. Makes no sense whatsoever especially for someone off the grid. I gotta say I loved the Vegas chase scene. The armored SWAT vehicle was a bit tankish but I thought it was a lot of fun and very well shot. Definitely easier to make out than the motorcycle sequence.
Yeah I get what you are saying, but I read someone describing it as a scene that belongs in a Fast & Furious movie, which sounds right to me.
It’s hard for me to argue that point. It did seem a little F&F. Maybe my general apathetic attitude at the time was just happy to see something a little different.
Nice review, Keith. You’re right, a lot of the initial quick-triggered criticisms are undeserved. That being said, it just feels unneeded. I wouldn’t be opposed to watching again say on HBO or something, because there are some exciting scenes, but I realize its flaws.
In my take, I made it a point to bring up Greengrass’ statement about The Bourne Legacy and why he didn’t want to do it because it would be “The Bourne Redundancy.” You can’t say that and then personally write a script that is even more redundant than what came before it without catching some ridicule.
You are so spot-on! “Redundant” is such a fitting word for this one. Nothing fresh or new in any form. Still a pretty good movie but how could you not expect more especially if you’ve adamantly stayed away from the series for so long?
While I enjoyed a lot about this film, it didn’t quite meet the standards that the first three had set. Some story elements felt recycled, and the social media subplot caused it to really lose focus. Still, Vikander and Damon’s performances alone made it worth a watch.
I agree. It definitely felt recycled. Painfully so in some instances. And I didn’t get into the social media subplot, but it did nothing to help things.
I definitely agree that there’s a sense of deja vu in terms of plot, character, and style, but overall this worked really well for me. I thought the action scenes in particular were excellent, and that Greengrass uses the shaky cam style way more effectively than most directors. I also love the series’ aggressive editing.
Thanks for the thoughts. I did like it overall. I just couldn’t quite shake some of my issues with it. But that Las Vegas action finale – tons of fun.
Good review. Like you said, there are plenty of Bourne elements in the movie, but that also brings a lot of “familiarity” to the proceedings, which can be both good and bad. While I was expecting a bit more out of the feature rather than a retread of sorts, it was still a entertaining movie to watch. Plus, Damon is still great as Jason Bourne.
Thanks Jason. You’re right, Damon is Bourne. His connection with that character is so strong and obvious.
Hi Keith, so yeah we pretty much agree on this one. Not stellar but still enjoyable. But I totally agree that the shaky cameras and quick cuts are disorienting, I mean I get it for the action scenes but why did the office scenes have to be shot in the same way?? Glad you agree the Vegas scene is fun, I think so too!
P.S. Hope you take part in this month’s FFTF!
I’ll definitely head over in a bit to jump into the FFTF discussion. Got some good nuggets for us?
Still really looking forward to seeing this one – I am a big Bourne fan! I am glad you liked it, even if you didn’t love it.
There is plenty there for Bourne fans. I doesn’t stray from that path at all. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.
I felt very similarly…a couple of good set pieces and some familiar material and I went home happy enough. But close scrutiny of the plot and the script shows up all sorts of holes!
Yep. I guess you could say it was a decent Bourne film, but it did nothing to set itself apart or re-energize the franchise. It seemed content to be a copy of the first three.
Would you be interested in another one after this? I presume there will be one. I’m still on board, but my enthusiasm has taken a bit of a bashing.
Honestly I would be fine if they let it lie. But if I saw evidence that they were legitimately doing something a little unique I could be won back over. And again, I didn’t hate this one. It just left me wanting more.
Story is a bit lame, but the action is still fun and exciting. Nice review Keith.
Thanks man. It feels a bit like three other Bourne movies, doesn’t it? Still (as you said), it manages to be fun.
Pingback: Movie Review – Jason Bourne
Pingback: Movie Review – Wall, The (2017)