I’m a fan of the original three Bourne films (2002’s The Bourne Identity, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum). All three featured Matt Damon in the titular role of Jason Bourne, amnesiac American hitman who is trying to figure out the lost pieces of his life while the “Agency” works very hard to eliminate him.
Until the Bourne films appeared, the king of the spy films was James Bond but, as Pierce Brosnan limped through his last features in the role, not only James Bond but the entire superspy genre appeared to be played out.
So it was a very pleasant surprise to find there was still life in it, as long as one offered a great plot and genuinely exciting action sequences. All three of the original Bourne films were a hit and their influence was clear when in 2006 the then latest James Bond reboot, Casino Royale, appeared and, to my eyes, to a great degree took note of the Bourne films and moved in that direction.
After 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum, however, it seemed this movie franchise was at its end. I distinctly recall Matt Damon was asked about either the plot of this film or where the franchise could go from here and, tongue planted in cheek, he noted something along the lines that all three films had the same plot.
He wasn’t totally wrong.
For each Bourne film does indeed feature a repetitive plot which I pointed out in the very second sentence of this review.
Despite the repetitive nature of the plots, the three original films nonetheless managed to use what they had well. When we reached The Bourne Ultimatum, however, it was clear this film was intended to be the finale. All of Jason Bourne’s original questions were answered and our protagonist made amends for his violent past while closing down the agency that made him what he was.
Despite this seemingly complete resolution, Hollywood being Hollywood and the allure of money to be made resulted in the first, and thus far only, “sideways” sequel to the Bourne films, the 2012 Jeremy Renner/Rachel Weisz starring The Bourne Legacy. On paper the concept wasn’t bad. Since Matt Damon wasn’t going to be in this film, the producers decided to focus on the many other “Jason Bournes” out there and make a feature on them.
Alas, what may sound intriguing on paper unfortunately didn’t work, IMHO, in the finished product. I felt The Bourne Legacy (you can read my original review of it here) was at best an “OK” film that didn’t resolve anything and appeared to be intended to start a new franchise rather than stand alone as its own good film. It comes as little surprise no sequels to this film were ever green lit.
However, Hollywood being Hollywood (redux) and money to be made, it shouldn’t be too terribly surprising that with the passage of years, Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass (he oversaw the last two of the original three Bourne films) were again drawn into making another Bourne film. They did, of course, and earlier this year Jason Bourne was released.
Alas, despite some really good action sequences and a very game Matt Damon, the best I can offer is, like The Bourne Legacy before it, a mild recommendation for Jason Bourne.
The film certainly isn’t a disaster. As I stated before, the action sequences are quite good at times (even if the final car chase is ludicrous).
But the story…
Once again we have Bourne looking into his background. Once again we have the “Agency” and their shadowy operative after our hero. Nothing’s really changed except the concept this time around seems tired and at times I couldn’t help but feel things weren’t as interesting as before.
Yet there’s little doubt the film could have been great. It features a good cast, including Tommy Lee Jones as CIA Director Robert Dewey, current “it” girl and soon to be Tomb Raider Alicia Vikander as CIA operative (and a woman with her own agenda) Heather Lee, Vincent Cassel as “Asset”, a hitman with a personal grudge against Jason Bourne. Julia Stiles also makes her return to the Bourne universe as Nicky Parsons, a role she’s had in all three original Bourne films.
But, again, the movie was decent but never spectacular.
The big problem lies in the screenplay and the way the story is told. As an audience we’re whipped from place to place and people are heading rapidly to the left, then to the right, then there’s gunfire and fist fights and car chases and general mayhem and rinse, lather, and repeat, and all revolve around a) Jason Bourne’s “origin” and b) a Mark Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs-like character who’s created some kind of Facebook-like program everyone uses and which the CIA hopes will allow them to watch over everyone.
By far the film’s worst sin and what soured me on much of what followed involves the films opening moments. I’ll get to this in a moment but it does involve a big SPOILER.
So, before I get into that SPOILER, I’ll repeat: Jason Bourne is a decent enough time killer that you should be able to enjoy but, frankly, you’re better off checking out the original three films. A mild recommendation for Jason Bourne completists.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
All right, for those still here: The movie gets started by Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons breaking into the CIA computers (a wise move…NOT!) and downloading some very sensitive material, including files related to Jason Bourne and the assassin program he went through. The CIA notes what she’s up to in real time and, because of the nature of the material she steals, they believe Ms. Parsons is in league with Jason Bourne.
This isn’t the case.
Jason Bourne has kept a very low profile while currently residing in Greece. He makes money in bare knuckle boxing matches and while staying “off the grid”. He has no idea at all what Parsons is up to but after she’s stolen the sensitive CIA material she seeks out and finds him at one of his boxing matches. There, she allows him to see her.
After the match, Bourne finds she’s left him a note in his belongings on where to meet up with her.
This is where the stupidity of the story goes really deep.
Why not just meet Bourne right then and there? Why leave him a note and then meet him elsewhere?
Oh, right, because when they meet up where she wants to meet, in the middle of a freaking all-out street riot in Athens, they become targets to the CIA who has, by this time, figured out where they are (as opposed to at that boxing match, where they weren’t at), and we get to have an Exciting-Chase-Sequence™ which eventually results in Nicky Parsons getting shot and killed…but not before she gives Jason a key to a locker which will lead him to the next place he needs to go.
How do I put this delicately?I This sequence is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.
Why the hell didn’t Nicky Parsons just wait for the boxing match to be over, approach Bourne, and talk to him there and then?
I’ll tell you why…Oh wait, I can’t.
IT MAKES NO SENSE.
It felt like the movie’s creators hoped to “shock” audiences at the death of this recurring character just as they did with another big character in the opening minutes of the second Bourne film (I won’t reveal who).
But in this case, the way it was done was just beyond stupid.
If you can get past that, you may enjoy the rest of the film a little more.