If you ignore the tacked-on Bourne Legacy, the Bourne series has been the standard in action-adventure. It’s grounded realism and intelligent plots were a good part of the reason the Bond series had to be dragged out of the 1970’s. Jason Bourne is the first film reuniting series star Matt Damon and director of films two and three, Paul Greengrass, in nine years. Was Bourne going to be back to his old tricks, or should this series have ended with The Bourne Ultimatum?
Unfortunately, the answer is that, like The Bourne Legacy, this is a movie that never should have been made. It’s shocking that given nine years to come up with a fresh angle or story, Jason Bourne has absolutely nothing to offer in terms of the entertainment or the intelligence that have been the series’ standard. There isn’t a single thing in this film that isn’t pulled and slightly repackaged from the first three films. Most of the film boils down to Tommy Lee Jones, Matt Damon, and Alicia Vikander (who looks way too young for the role she’s playing in the CIA hierarchy. Those are three Oscar-winners. At least you would think the acting would be high quality, but it’s not. All three are wooden, cardboard. Damon only has 25 lines in the entire film, and sure, there are occasions where you don’t need a lot of dialogue, but a mute Bourne isn’t the Bourne we love and the entire film may be the biggest disappointment of 2016.
After cheating death at the end of Ultimatum, Bourne has apparently been spending the last nine years on the underground fight club circuit and occasionally meeting up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) to lend her advice or a hand. For those hoping that relationship will finally be defined, don’t. There’s another CIA black ops program, this time headed by Jones and Vikander, and when Bourne surfaces, they push the panic button and send in an operative to eliminate him (if this is sounding familiar, it’s because it is). The first 45 minutes of the film, Greengrass goes out of control with his shaky cam signature style. It gets so jarring that it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s happening on screen at times. Thankfully, it settles down for the movie’s more interesting (more, not better) second half, but what started as a signature has descended into hubris.
Bourne has all his memories of David Webb’s life back, but it’s the new information regarding his motivation to join Treadstone in the first place (a terrorist attack that killed his father) that is driving him this time. That bit of solid plot, though, gets lost in half-hearted attempts to look at a post-Snowden intelligence community and the danger to American liberty that is the War on Privacy waged by the government and corporations against its citizens. Those things could have made a good movie, but for some reason we all end up in Vegas (because when I think “Bourne” I think “VEGAS, BABY”). The car chase there, that Greengrass has called the best of the series belongs in a Fast & Furious movie, not in the grounded reality of Bourne’s world.
I think this movie is going to bomb. Coming out of the theater were a horde of women having just seen Bad Moms, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that upset Bourne and win the weekend. With Suicide Squad the week after that, and poor word-of-mouth, I sincerely hope this is the end of the attempts to continue the series. The original Bourne Trilogy will live on as action perfection, and if you haven’t seen the fourth and fifth films, do yourself a favor and don’t.