Movie Review: Jason Bourne ironically suffers from memory loss
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Stars: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles
Synopsis: The CIA’s most dangerous former operative is drawn out of hiding to uncover more explosive truths about his past.
Anyone that listen’s to the InSession Film Podcast will know that we are big fans of the Bourne franchise. On a recent Extra Film podcast, we raved heavily about the original trilogy starring Matt Damon and even argued how The Bourne Ultimatum is one of the best action films of the last twenty years. So, when it was announced that Damon and director Paul Greengrass were coming back to the franchise, many people, including us, were very excited.
Paul Greengrass wastes no time sling-shooting nostalgia into Jason Bourne. As the film opens, John Powell’s recognizable Jason Bourne theme subtly rings while Greengrass hands the audience a visual montage of the series so far. It has been nearly a decade since we last saw Bourne, but it only two a few seconds for Greengrass to immediately supplant the audience back into this world. We catch up with Bourne (Matt Damon), who is of course off the radar, when Nicky (Julia Stiles) finds him in Athens to give him more information about his past as it relates to the old Treadstone program. The information Bourne learns is very personal to him, which causes him to seek more answers from the U.S. government. In the process, C.I.A. agent, Heater Lee (Alicia Vikander) feels that she can bring in Bourne alive and this leads to some interesting twists and turns throughout the film.
On the surface, the script by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse will feel trite and “been there, done that” within this franchise. However, it’s actually one of the smartest things about Jason Bourne. Thematically speaking, tackling notions of “history repeating itself” is relevant to our society and culture today, so the idea that another Treadstone would come along but with modern technology and social media, is brilliant on paper. Greengrass’ direction in the first act beautifully laid the groundwork for that idea to resonate, however, he and Rouse’s script becomes so consumed with subplots and trying to be clever, that in the end it out-wits itself. As a result, Jason Bourne becomes a missed opportunity that fails to take advantage of a great idea.
The other major problem of Jason Bourne is how Greengrass and Rouse overwrite the plot without the right clarity. Bourne has been off the grid for nearly a decade, why would he get involved once more? That’s the question that Jason Bourne had to answer. Well, they do answer that question, albeit a bit contrived, but it is enough for the film to work. However, Greengrass and Rouse tediously interweave subplots into Bourne’s backstory that are cheaply artificial, which shackle’s Bourne’s motivations. In turn, Bourne’s actions in the film’s climax accidentally contradict everything we knew about Bourne. The final confrontation between he and another C.I.A. official lacks lucidity and is ambiguous in all the wrong ways. Bourne simply isn’t the same character we saw in the original Bourne trilogy, at least from a writing standpoint.
Damon on the other hand, is as good as ever. He slips back into this role with superb ease and takes complete control of the character. Where the writing of Jason Bourne fails, Damon certainly makes up for it in his performance. Vikander, accent aside, is also very good. Her physical acting is off the charts in this film. Her accent though, is very distracting. Tommy Lee Jones is, well, Tommy Lee Jones.
The action of this film is very good. The shaky cam is used heavily of course, but that is what we have come to know from Greengrass and how he shoots his action scenes. Greengrass’ technique perhaps becomes overkill when the action stops but when the energy of Jason Bourne ramps up, Greengrass does his thing and it’s engaging to watch. The car chase in Las Vegas especially, is one of the better action scenes of this summer.
Jason Bourne isn’t a bad film, in fact there is pure fun to be had here. However, it is disappointing in the end given what we should expect from Greengrass and Damon. The absence of Tony Gilroy (who wrote the screenplay for the original Bourne trilogy) is felt here. The main culprit of Jason Bourne‘s problems lie with Greengrass and Rouse’s script, who just didn’t quite have a handle on what motivates these characters. The film had some great ideas on paper, but in an attempt to be astute, the ideas are taken too far and Jason Bourne unfortunately becomes more unbalanced than it wanted to be.
Overall Grade: B-
Hear our full review on Episode 180: