Review: Jason Bourne

Review: Jason Bourne

I vaguely remember a time when I gleefully anticipated this fifth entry into the Bourne film series. As one of the 'smarter' action franchises, these films took the genre to a new place with taut tales of modern intelligence told through a global lens. But in this post-24 world, this effort feels stale. Gone are the days when we could be dazzled by technology. Gone are the days when searching a database with a testosterone soaked soundtrack moved the needle. We know that sometimes these situations are tense. What more do you have to say? With Jason Bourne, the answer is, sadly, very little. 

  Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

In the years since we have seen Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon), he has been recovering from his amnesia and staying 'off the grid.' Meanwhile, his one-time ally, Nicky Parsons (played by Julia Stiles), has been working with a hacking outfit to get into the CIA's network and expose some of their secret programs. Her actions alert the head of the CIA's cyber ops division, Heather Lee (played by Alicia Vikander), and CIA director Robert Dewey (played by Tommy Lee Jones).

What follows is a game of cat and mouse with various intricacies, but it suffices to say Bourne seeks to uncover CIA black ops like Treadstone and the CIA tries to stop him. All the while, the CIA is also exerting its influence over the CEO of Deep Dream, a Facebook-like social media company that the CIA would like to infiltrate for intelligence purposes. All of these storylines eventually crowd into a bullet-filled finale. But was the end result satisfying? Yes and no. 

 Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Paul Greengrass is an able director. Outside of the disastrous opening 20 mins. or so, the film mostly "works." It is tense where it intends to be and moves along at a brisk enough pace. Still, however, it managed to cover very little new ground. We already knew Treadstone was a mystery. 'Re-Treadstone' anyone? We already knew Bourne didn't have all the information. The painstaking process of retelling these elements kept the movie from figuring out what more it could have said. 

 Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Instead of offering something fresh and new, we get this odd bridge between the bizarre fake accent of Alicia Vikander's character and the bizarre real accent of Tommy Lee Jones'. At one point, Heather Lee even posits that Director Dewey belongs to the past, which is most of the problem. Dewey is from an era where the half-zip sweaters and USB drives that dot the plot were fresh. If the filmmakers intend to make a sixth entry, hopefully they break totally with the past and offer something truly worthy of a feature-length film. 

This strange dated middle ground is best reflected in the film's odd data privacy subplot. The film genuinely seems to think it is saying something novel, but it really isn't. Most of what is here represents a surface level treatment that is far less sophisticated than just about anyone who knows how to open more than one tab in a browser. Points for trying, but it ended up looking like a dinosaur trying to ties its shoes. It struggled to do something that should have been fairly simple.

This is the Finding Dory of action movies--I can't remember why we wanted this, our main character can't remember anything and I hope we are finally done here.

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