Jason Bourne is a 2016 American spy thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass. It is the fifth film in the Bourne franchise. The film was written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse. The film stars Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, and Scott Shepard. Jason Bourne takes place several years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum. Bourne resurfaces for reasons unknown, and the CIA creates a new program, Ironhand, in order to hunt him down.
The Bourne film franchise will always have a special place in my heart, as The Bourne Identity was the one of the first non-kids films I watched as a child at 10 or 11 years old. Identity was a fun, dumb action romp directed by Doug Liman, who directed the very good popcorn flick Live, Die, Repeat in 2014.The ending of the 2002 film didn’t leave a whole lot of room open for a sequel, but then The Bourne Supremacy happened. Identity was a simplistic story about a guy who’s being chased by assassins. The entire plot was basically an excuse for the coolest American fight scene ever.
Identity was fun, but then Paul Greengrass came along.Paul Greengrass directed both Supremacy and Ultimatum. With his help, the series, I feel, became much more slick, smart, and intelligent, while still being awesome. They all had elements of smart political intrigue, moral quandaries, and mystery that elevated the series beyond “popcorn flicks.” There was an edge and a sense of relevance to them. Combine that with Matt Damon using a book to beat the living crap out of someone….
And you have something awesome. The Bourne Ultimatum was a particular triumph and will always be the best in the franchise. It is the peak of this franchise and is one of my favorite movies of all-time. Sadly, after the epic success of ltimatum, Universal decided to push it even further, and put a sequel into production. Matt Damon refused to return, because he correctly felt that there’s not anywhere interesting to take the series, which reached a logical conclusion. That didn’t stop a spin-off from happening.
Somebody came up with the idea to, instead of making a fourth film about Jason Bourne, make a film about a new character in the same universe that must deal with the ramifications of Bourne’s previous actions. That is actually a very interesting and great idea, and I was excited for it when I heard about it. There’s a limitless number of possibilities there. Unfortunately, for me, it could not have gone worse. 2012’s The Bourne Legacy starred the excellent Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, an operative for another black ops program called Outcome. The ending of Ultimatum leads the CIA to frantically roll up all clandestine operations to protect them from public exposure. Instead of bringing these operatives in from the cold, they, for reasons I don’t understand, systematically assassinate all Outcome operatives. Outcome operatives are given enhanced abilities through a series of pills that enhance them physically and mentally. Aaron Cross, escaping an assassination attempt, kidnaps the doctor in charge of dispensing the pills. It is discovered that Cross was given a serum earlier that permanently enhanced his strength, which eliminates the need for one set of pills. He was not given an intelligence serum. It’s never explained why. We come to the discovery that Cross was mentally handicapped and needs to get the serum or else he’ll become stupid and hopeless. No political intrigue, nothing interesting, the only thing relating to Bourne’s actions is that now the CIA wants to kill him, which doesn’t make sense. If you have enhanced super agents, can’t you bring them in and redo everything when the controversy blows over?
So yeah, I didn’t like Legacy. The actors were great and I did enjoy the action, but the plot was a boring waste of potential with no twists or intrigue or anything interesting to say. That’s not to say they can’t try again, though. However, I was immediately overcome with joy upon hearing the news that Damon and Greengrass are back. I guessed that meant that someone came up with a great script that got Damon back into the franchise.
Sadly, no.Let me start out by saying that I did ultimately enjoy Jason Bourne. The plot involves Jason Bourne being sucked back into the world after a decade off the grid by Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons. The only thing that propels the plot is Nicky showing up and telling Bourne about his father. It feels like an extremely forced way to make the movie’s plot happen, and Bourne had access to all Treadstone files from Ultimatum, wouldn’t he know about his father’s involvement? I am talking about his father because a TV spot for the film actually included and spoiled this information, so it’s fair game. It doesn’t really effect much anyway. It turns out a good script is not why Damon came back. It isn’t a bad script, just an overly familiar one that retreads on old ground and not doing much new or original. They reused a lot of plot points from the original trilogy and even some of the same shots. There’s a shot of Jason staring pensively out a train window, a shot of him walking around worried in a train station, etc. You’ll notice if you see it. Jason even goes back to Berlin, and they use the same establishing shots of the Berlin TV Tower they used in 2004. The majority of this movie just does the same thing the previous entries did, but worse, in some cases. The Las Vegas car chase and the climactic sewer fight were messy, full of too many unnecessary jump cuts, unoriginal, cliché, and paled in comparison to the rest of the franchise.
Matt Damon didn’t seem like his heart was in it to me, and neither did Julia Stiles. The two franchise veterans seem to sleepwalk through their performances with a lack of passion that they previously had. Franchise newcomers Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassell, and Alicia Vikander do okay jobs. Their characters, however, are extremely one-dimensional and disappointingly underwritten. They aren’t very interesting.
That sounds bad, but Jason Bourne is still miles ahead of Legacy, and I did walk away liking it. It wasn’t bad, it just doesn’t get anywhere even close to Ultimatum, and is sadly forgettable. It is simply an unnecessary, forced entry in a franchise I struggle to admit we probably should’ve closed the book on back in 2007. For a film I was admittedly anticipating very much, I wish I had more to say about it, good or bad. But it can really just be summed up as “decent, but disappointing,” which is disappointing in and of itself. It is making some money, though. If Universal insists on continuing this franchise, I’ll still go see them in hopes that they get awesome again, but I hope they at least try to make it interesting.