After a 9-year hiatus, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass miss an opportunity to do something new with Jason Bourne.
PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
It’s a series that’s been going on since 2002. Now there are four movies starring Matt Damon and an odd detour starring Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy in 2012). They all play off the same theme: Incredibly important and highly-classified government operations have been jeopardized and somehow the experiment that is Jason Bourne is involved. Jason, by the way, would like a little revenge after “volunteering” to be whatever the CIA needed him to be and, in the process, losing his own identity.
Storywise, it’s more of the same this time, even though this is the first in the series without Tony Gilroy’s fingerprints on the screenplay. And it’s also the first to have Greengrass as a co-author (along with Christopher Rouse, Greengrass’ go-to film editor who also splices together the action here).
That annoying jittery, constantly moving camera work? It’s back, too. Generously described as “documentary style,” it seems incredibly old hat here and now — and that restless leg syndrome is virtually non-stop. Maybe it’s a device that can still evoke excitement around a rather stationary activity like computer hacking (in this case, a hack “bigger than Snowden”), but Greengrass has gone to that trough enough and it should be used with a little more discretion. The 1990s called, Paul, they want their camera moves back.
Time to Bourne
Looking back, the first iPhone was released on June 29, 2007. The Bourne Ultimatum — the last installment with Damon in the lead — was released on August 3 of that same year, but this movie series hasn’t kept pace with the innovations and the rapid changes in the times.
Okay. There is a subplot involving a mega social media platform called Deep Dream. It’s a system that boasts of having 1.5 billion users and the creator has flat-out guaranteed the system is private. “No one will be watching you,” he says. Well, nobody except for the CIA.
It’s a less than compelling injection of something close to current times.
There are other, better opportunities teased with and tossed away in Jason Bourne that could’ve elevated the material into something with more edge and urgency. One action sequence in particular takes place in Athens, Greece, in the thick of protests. That beleaguered country’s troubles are simply background noise to the foreground noise of yet another attempt to bring in Bourne.
Bourne to Run
Bourne makes some extra cash by touring around the fight club circuit in places like the Greece/Albania border, where odds makers put his Serbian opponent as a heavy favorite. Nah. He’s felled in one punch from Bourne. The action trots around the globe — as with the other Bourne flicks — and this time the locations include Iceland, Germany, Italy and, of course, Greece.
But it’s in Las Vegas where the wheels pretty much fall off this Bourne wagon. The Vegas strip is the setting for a ridiculously over-the-top car chase that culminates in the trashing of the Riviera’s main lobby. (No worries. The place closed last year and was leveled in June.) Sure, it’s in keeping with a lot of the borderline absurd action of the other installments, but there’s something desperate about the action here. It’s more off-putting than exciting.
And all of this ends with one of the series’ best new additions — Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) as a new operative looking to impress her CIA bosses — showing her hand at the end and ultimately doing nothing more than setting the stage for another episode.
Perhaps that’s Jason Bourne’s biggest problem. It feels unnecessary, like The Bourne Legacy. It’s simply a jumpstart to the series, a reintroduction of the Bourne character that will hopefully get a story with more relevance next time.