Friday, July 29, 2016

We Don't Need Jason Bourne

This review originally appeared on

Jason Bourne, the fifth film in the franchise, but only the fourth to star Matt Damon as the titular character, is the Bourne movie we don't really need, except perhaps as a way to pretend 2012's The Bourne Legacy (starring Jeremy Renner as NOT Jason Bourne) never happened.

The last Bourne movie to star Matt Damon was 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, and that movie was pretty satisfying, in a final-film kind of way. But if Jason Bourne is an attempt to relaunch the franchise, they should probably wait another ten years and try again.

Set ten years after Ultimatum, Jason Bourne finds our hero wandering around Europe, fighting in underground boxing matches for money. (Within the first ten minutes of the film, Damon takes off his shirt, so at least there's that.)

Meanwhile, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), has apparently been wandering around Europe looking for the perfect computer to hack into the CIA's Black Ops files. She finds it in Iceland, and turns out it's not too hard to locate the CIA's secret files since they're all in a folder labeled "BLACK OPERATIONS." (Sheesh. The CIA isn't even smart enough to label it TAXES like most people do their porn folders!) [Attending the screening as Rain's guest, this dumbass folder name made me laugh aloud. - ELB]

Digging into those cyber files she learns the CIA is planning to launch a new version of the terrible Treadstone operation that gave birth to Bourne, as well as some secrets about Bourne's original recruitment. She brings this info to him, hoping for his help in exposing the whole thing to the world.

Luckily for the CIA, they have a not-at-all-shady cyber-security agent named Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who quickly catches on to the plan. She convinces CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), to let her lead the counter operation, with her personal goal being the re-recruitment of Bourne. Dewey's less keen on bringing Bourne back alive, and assigns an asset (Vincent Cassel) to kill Bourne.

The film tries to get with the times, adding an Internet security angle to the whole thing, including a tech giant meant to represent Google, Facebook, and Apple, all in one, whose founder no longer wishes to aid the CIA in any counter-terrorism efforts. Director Dewey is not happy with this, but then again he's played by Tommy Lee Jone, who never looks happy about anything. (Also, I'm pretty sure Jones's eyes are going to just disappear into his eye bags any day now.)

Paul Greengrass, who directed the second and third Bourne films, returns to the helm, and I have to finally just admit I absolutely hate the way he directs action sequences. It's not just the constant shaky camera, (which is tedious); or the ADD editing; or how, because of the use of digital over film, everything ends up blurry. It's all that combined with the fact that, at least in Jason Bourne, half the action sequences take place in dim lighting, so you're basically guaranteed to be confused.

There's a chase scene in Las Vegas that involves a Dodge Charger chasing a SWAT truck through the crowded, neon lit streets of the Vegas Strip. This should be awe-inspiring and tense; instead it's a boring blur of carnage with zero suspense. This is followed by a fist fight between Cassell and Damon that's filmed in a dark sewer. Great.

And perhaps that would be fine if the non-action parts of the movie weren't so dreadfully dull. Vikander's character, should they continue the films, could prove to be interesting, but too often she's just reacting to computer screens while wearing an unfortunate hair clamp. The attempts to fill in Bourne's backstory fall easily into "daddy issues" territory, and had me rolling my eyes more than once. And when an action movie has you dreading the action sequences, and yawning through the rest, it's pretty safe to say it's a born loser.

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