Jason Bourne review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Matt Damon returns to the role of Jason Bourne. Paul Greengrass returns to direct Jason Bourne. The old cat-and-mouse game of Bourne versus the CIA returns to the franchise. Together, they’re all a reminder of why these people and plot elements left the series in the first place.
Once again we find rogue agent Jason Bourne on the run as he is once again tracked by the CIA while he once again discovers more secrets of his past. One would think that after all this time that Greengrass could return to this series with something fresh and timely. He certainly attempts to the way he weaves in the protests of Greece, the fear privacy in the mobile age and the increased threat of terrorism. Instead of crafting an intriguing spy movie from those topical subjects, Greengrass uses them as little more than window dressing for his Bourne-centric story.
But what’s so hot about Bourne this time around? His old pal Nicky (Julia Stiles) has uncovered documents of Bourne’s recruitment into the old program as well as a new program. The surprise reveal of Jason’s pathos is nothing all that clever and the new CIA program is so bland even the movie doesn’t want to address this ill-thought McGuffin. The movie mostly zips past this contrived setup to get to its own action sequences, but you still have to put up with some amazingly forced plot elements. There’s no reason for Jason Bourne to get involved with Nicky’s findings, but he does so anyway out of unspoken closure. He goes through the motions of escaping hitmen, questioning pawns (that are killed upon spilling information, of course) and eventually having a showdown with the CIA orchestrator. What I found most perplexing is how the CIA has been aware of Bourne and his tactics for years and yet they still fall for every trick he pulls. Wouldn’t they notice the old baseball cap and looking down as his disguise by now?
The cast is strong, but never used past base roles of a spy-thriller plot. There’s a new CIA leader played by Tommy Lee Jones who is familiar with Bourne, but only in the sense that he keeps babbling about him being unstoppable. Alicia Vikander plays a rookie CIA agent that secretly helps Bourne, merely acting as the next female sidekick after taking the baton. The only interesting character is a CIA hitman played by Vincent Cassel which, despite a personal vendetta against Bourne, is painfully underdeveloped as more of a goon than a developed assassin. As for Matt Damon, he looks as though he doesn’t want to be here. With little dialogue, few fight scenes and a grimace constantly on his face, he’s dreadful to watch in how he slogs his way through this by-the-numbers spy movie.
The action scenes could have been exciting if only they were shot properly. The sequence where Bourne attempts to escape the CIA by dashing through the protests in the streets of Athens is a great idea. It’s just too bad the constantly shaking camera and frenetic editing doesn’t allow you to experience much of the chaos. There were so many details with police swarming the streets, protesters chucking molotov cocktails, motorcycles whizzing by, gunfire in the distance and all you get to see of it is blurs. The editing becomes less horrific as the movie goes on and a more expensive car chase forces the camera to remain semi-still.
After nearly a decade of being distant from Damon and Greengrass, Jason Bourne isn’t just out of energy - it’s running on the fumes of the fumes. The action is no fun when it is all blurs, the characters are not engaging when they’re all dreary and the story isn’t entertaining when it’s the same old bit built as a retread. The ending leaves the door wide open for a sequel as though a new trilogy of pictures will follow. But as Damon sleepwalks through this movie with the most bored of expressions, I had to wonder why he didn’t just end the series here. He’s tired of this, we’re tired of this - put Bourne to bed.