It works because it’s the same and it doesn’t because it isn’t.
Layered beneath geopolitics, conspiracy, surveillance, espionage, corruption, identity and discovery is Jason Bourne the character, the spy of the 21st century. It is this envelope of themes that developed a parallel to run alongside Bourne’s chase of his own identity and it is this same parallel that defines the trilogy. While Bourne carries his own narrative weight, it’s the diabolical societal aspects that keep the motor running so smoothly and make the trilogy what it is.
Ultimatum was a clean conclusion because Bourne had discovered all there was to uncover about himself and about the United States’ elaborate labyrinth of special ops branches. The stunt work was never questioned, the tenacity never reviled, the character lines never misconstrued and the supposed fears never questioned. It just made sense. In a post-9/11 world, all these things seemed possible. Despite the negative glow surrounding their actions, there are plenty that would still support the government if they were to act in this manner, only adding to the complexity of the story and conflicted protagonist.
All of this is to say the moment Jason Bourne hit the river, the credits should have ruled on the film and the series. If you want to make a similar character and continue with the same parlance, by all means do so. Bourne has run his course. Pass the baton.
As we’ve seen with Hollywood, they don’t like to pass the baton. Their confidence in their own ability turns to arrogance, eventually tarnishing the image they once had and the character they once symbolized. We’ve seen sequels discredit original properties (A Good Day to Die Hard comes to mind) and in some cases do irreparable damage.
Thankfully, we don’t need to enter the war room and decide if this saga has entered the domain of no return yet but what Jason Bourne affirms is it’s fast approaching.
For all that it is, Jason Bourne can’t help but feel like a run-of-the-mill action chapter rather than a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the original three provided us. The trilogy is by no means beyond reproach but it is certainly memorable and sticks out of the long array of titles you’re bound to see on your bookshelf as you exit the house. It’s prominent.
The same carefully marinated verve we see in Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum is not here. Greengrass does all he can to try and conjure that same flavor but it’s hard to articulate a taste that you last lavished in nine years ago. Some volcanoes should stay dormant. Jason Bourne only echoes that sentiment.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some fine work done here. Alicia Vikander, fresh off her Academy Award for her work in The Danish Girl, brings a much-needed change of pace character to the table, adding a thin filament of distraction to veil the abrasions from a script that is fighting itself.
The choreography can’t help but feel like something we’ve all seen before rather than original, lacking the fine execution that makes art and food what it is. The exquisite touches are what stick out to both critics and audiences. The main course is fine, essentially average, but the particular and specific sculpting we usually see in these Bourne movies just isn’t there, made all the worse when your film is titled Jason Bourne.
Matt Damon seems in search of himself once again but this time in an unorthodox way that the storyline forces him to observe. We all know who Bourne is by this point. The idea that the film tries to suggest otherwise is just silly, which might be and probably is why this plot feels distant to its viewers. Like a salesman that’s already sold you on the merits of a product but insists there’s more he has to talk about, Bourne begins to become taxing at points, mainly when it becomes confirmed that we’re not having anything new presented to us. Like that salesman, he’s telling us stuff we already know. That’s fine. We are enamored with the product but we don’t need to hear it again. It comes across as a waste of time more than anything else.
There’s some entertainment to be had seeing Damon as Bourne again and reliving the themes of this 9/11 world but it would be far better if Damon wasn’t ask to chase his character for a fourth time and instead could just be his character. Jason Bourne’s whole backstory was already revealed to us. There’s no need to reveal it to us again.
Imagine a magician who makes a rabbit appear. It’s quite magical and impressive. Said magician then puts a blanket in front of the bunny and expects you to be amazed again, surmising that he can recreate the same reaction by using a strip of cloth and then is mystified when his audience doesn’t applaud. That’s what we have here.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Underworld, The Do-Over, X-Men: Apocalypse, D-Tox/Eye See You, Constantine)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: Evolution, Batman & Robin, Bloodsport, War, The Ridiculous 6)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Independence Day: Resurgence, The Crow: City of Angels, Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for Jason Bourne: 68.
It has some fun to offer, most evidently the nostalgia it affords, but Jason Bourne doesn’t have the best Bourne can offer, making its title inconvenient and unearned. Adequate turns from Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones ain’t gonna change that and neither can Matt Damon, despite all of his attempts to do so. In a year at the theaters that continues to disappoint, Jason Bourne is yet another example.