Film Review: Jason Bourne


JasonBourneppal  Executives at Universal found out the hard way that audiences will only accept one man as Jason Bourne. That man is not Jeremy Renner, but Matt Damon. After the mixed response of “The Bourne Legacy,” the studio has brought back Damon to reprise his most famous role. All is right in the world in the eyes of Bourne fans.

Also returning is Paul Greengrass, who regains the director’s chair and co-wrote the screenplay alongside Christopher Rouse. The shaky cam returns with him and I’m reminded of just how much I dislike it. It’s meant to represent the chaos of Jason Bourne’s life, but is too on the nose and nauseating. The action sequences become hard to watch, though it is admittedly complementary to certain set pieces (such as the violent protest at the Parliament and the car chase in Las Vegas). It’s most jarring when the camera can’t stay still during simple exchanges of dialogue. It’s most aggravating when we are made to read important scripture on documents. It’s hard to digest the written word when it’s encased in a camera’s earthquake. I thought I’d have grown numb to this shooting style by now, but alas I have not.

Jason Bourne

The appeal of the Bourne franchise has always been in its smart cat and mouse thriller elements, which thankfully overshadows the wonky camerawork. It’s no different here, though this installment is a little less taut. While it delivers slick twists and deals with serious subjects (such as the leaking of shady government documents), they act more as components in Jason Bourne’s revenge. The film may start out as a cat and mouse thriller, but it transitions into a revenge fable, smoothly I might add.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is brought out of hiding by his compatriot Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She has hacked into the government’s database and retrieved a document that reveals that Jason’s father may be responsible for his recruitment as a brainwashed spy. He now knows his true identity, with his search for answers now coming in the form of his past. He sets his sights on CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), the prototypical corrupt government official responsible for Bourne’s downfall.

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Aiding Dewey in his quest to track down the newly resurfaced Bourne are Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a CIA agent who tracks Jason’s movements via satellite and hacking, and Asset (Vincent Cassel), a ruthless mercenary out for blood. Helping Dewey in obtaining private information of the public is Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), a program developer blackmailed into Dewey’s corruption. If the premise of a corrupt government invading the privacy of its citizens and damning evidence being leaked reminds you of Edward Snowden, it’s supposed to. The man is even namedropped to drive the point home.

Greengrass isn’t interested in taking a stance on the Snowden ordeal. Portions of his story are spliced into the film only to serve as driving points. While Bourne himself finds the government to be corrupt, he doesn’t necessarily side with those who leak the information. He emphatically tells one of the hackers that he’s not on his side before engaging in a fight with him. Introducing these all-too-real ingredients only to tiptoe around their significance is a bit diminishing to the film’s tone overall, but it never sinks the film. It only teases us with what could have been.

Jason Bourne (2016)

What “Jason Bourne” is, as mentioned earlier, is a revenge thriller at heart. Greengrass efficiently utilizes cat and mouse tactics to guide the film to the revenge, but those expecting more of the former will be slightly disappointed. I’m seeing criticisms of the film’s finale, a big car chase through Las Vegas, as being a departure from the film’s tone. On the contrary, I feel it’s built up to well and is befitting of the film’s tone. It matches the anarchy of Jason Bourne’s thirst for vengeance and, while more over-the-top, is worthy of the series’ best stunts.

There’s also been criticism lodged against Matt Damon’s performance, seeing it as subdued. What others seen as subdued I seen as desperately exhausted. Bourne is a man beaten down by his actions to the point of despondence. We see him initially residing in the shadows, engaging in pit fighting for revenue. It’s only when Nicky Parsons tracks him down that his spark is rekindled. Even then, his voraciousness only appears outwardly when physically threatened. At this point, he’s more calculated and tired than headstrong.

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The Bourne series is one I’ve found to be good, but not great. The material itself is great, but the direction has always held it back a bit for me. I can’t get past the turbulent camerawork, especially when it rears its ugly head during key moments. The material is always strong enough to overcome it, but never transcend it. Such is the case with “Jason Bourne.” It’s good, but not great.

Final Rating: B

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