With all the reboots, in-universe remakes, and long-gap sequels coming out lately, a movie really needs to firmly establish itself and the reason for its existence beyond simply being another entry in the franchise. Unlike something like the James Bond movies, which only really need to continue the adventures, the Bourne movies were very much based in a specific setup: the life and memory/lack of memory of the main character. Once Jason Bourne finds out everything, he’s done. But he’s back, apparently, in Jason Bourne, and it’s very much a movie that feels made without narrative purpose.
The original three Bourne movies follow Matt Damon‘s amnesiac assassin as he pieces together his dark past and confronts the clandestine government organizations that made him a killer, choosing to go rogue. The trilogy had a satisfactory ending, with Bourne’s life being put right, more or less, and him completely walking away. After the tepid response to the Jeremy Renner-starring spinoff movie, The Bourne Legacy, it was clear Universal wanted Damon and director Paul Greengrass back. But what would the story be? It would have to take something pretty major to bring our hero out of hiding. The unfortunate thing is that the reason feels incredibly forced and it’s couched within a narrative that feels tired and worn at this point.
The story finds Mr. Bourne street fighting for money in Greece. His former ally/tech person Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has gone rogue and is helping a secret-leaker release sensitive documents. The CIA catches on and the director (Tommy Lee Jones) has his top analyst, the smart and ambitious Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), on the case. But Lee wants to track down Bourne and bring him in alive, whereas the director just wants to kill him and be done with it. After a massive action sequence set amidst an austerity riot in Athens, Bourne acquires the documents, which contain classified files about Treadstone, Blackbriar, and other such super soldier programs, as well as a bit about Bourne’s father, who may be more involved in all of it than any of us knew. Also, since we’ve never seen nor heard of Bourne’s father before, it feels completely unjustified.
You’ve seen all of this before; Bourne goes from city to city, walking quickly while carrying a bag, following leads while the CIA tries to track him down. The bad guy is one of the department higher-ups, while the underling isn’t quite so bad. There’s also another assassin—in this case “the Asset” played by Vincent Cassell—who has some tie to Bourne’s past and who acts as the movie’s secondary, more physical threat. It’s all very rote. This one, coming nearly a decade since the previous Damon-starring entry, adds the oh-so-topical theme of government surveillance and social media being in bed together for nefarious purposes and the usual argument of whether national security should be attained through the compromised rights of citizens. It’s just so bland.
There are a couple superlative action sequences, and Greengrass again proves that he’s a deft hand at quick-cut, adrenaline-pumping chase scenes and hand-to-hand combat. The opening foray through the streets of Athens and the final bombastic excursion through around the Las Vegas strip are exciting but belie the otherwise pedestrian elements of the story. The script is so boring! There are two separate instances early on in the movie of someone mentioning a “backdoor” in terms of hacking, and evoking Edward Snowden to illustrate that this particular leak being worse than what he did. In fact, the second scene for each mention is the same scene. It’s bafflingly tedious throughout. Damon was wise to limit his dialogue. The action is entertaining enough and it gets points but it’s not in service of anything, really. Like Bourne himself, the franchise should have stayed dark.
Rating: 2 out of 5 runaround burritos
Featured Image: Universal