Where ‘Jason Bourne’ went wrong

Jason Bourne returns in 'Jason Bourne,' but it doesn't captivate us like Jason Bourne used to do...

The Bourne Legacy left me with a broken heart. Could that really be it? That movie?

jason-boring

I should have known: Where there is a government, there is a Jason Bourne to cause it trouble. When I saw the trailer for Jason Bourne, you know I was hyped. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne seemed bigger and more badass than ever. Alicia Vikander and Riz Ahmed – who were awesome in Ex Machina and Nightcrawler, respectively  were also cast.

You bet I know his name.

Then, I actually saw the movie. While Jason Bourne was at least a coherent film, unlike Legacy, it did not deliver.

*Some light spoilage ahead*

In 2002, when The Bourne Identity came out, fans of Robert Ludlum novels were upset with the casting choice of Matt Damon to play the broken, mysterious, and powerful Jason Bourne. This is understandable because, at the time, Damon was primarily known for his role as the skinny kid in Good Will Hunting. But when audiences saw the Boston boy’s mastery of hand-to-hand combat, they knew they were in for an action-packed ride sprinkled with some rich character moments. It turned out to be an awesome casting choice.

Technically speaking, the editing in the original three films is what makes the franchise so iconic. The camera work, especially during action scenes, is very fast-paced and shaky, but not to the point where it feels nauseating or unprofessional.  Now, I’m not the biggest fan of handheld camerawork – I almost puked when I saw Cloverfield because it was so shaky – but the Bourne films do shaky cam a great deal of justice. Even during sequences that are primarily dialogue, the camerawork is dynamic but used to a proper effect, creating intimacy and urgency. 

The one thing the franchise misses the mark on is the storyline (again, spoilers). Identity provides the viewer with a mystery: Who is Jason Bourne? Why can’t he remember anything? Why can he kill so efficiently? Why is the government after him? What is “the program?” After three movies, many of these questions were still unanswered. I expected Jason Bourne to pick up where Ultimatum left off (Ultimatum literally ends with Matt Damon swimming away, so it’s not like Jason Bourne was a studio effort to reopen a long since completed franchise), and maybe try to answer some more questions. I expected them to work with what the first three films built. But what did we get instead?

Well, on the positive side, we got some good performances from Matt Damon and Alicia Vikander. We also had some visceral action scenes, some good chase sequences, and a good revenge plot line between Bourne and the character we only know as “Asset” – all things I expected from a Bourne film. But the film starts to falter in the dialogue and subplot between the characters played by Riz Ahmed and Tommy Lee Jones. Riz Ahmed plays a CEO of a tech company that’s unveiling its new platform, which is really valuable to the government because of its ability to invade privacy and keep track of everyone on the planet. Tommy Lee Jones spends the film trying to bully Ahmed’s character into doing certain things, and it just doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Bourne film. It’s the same type of bullshit they tried to pull in Furious 7 with the God’s Eye plot line, and in Spectre with the Nine Eyes plot line (lots of eyes here). Any time this social media subplot comes up, it screeches the flow of the film to a halt. I feel like a lot of directors these days are trying to make tie-ins to social media to serve as “a commentary of our times” so to speak, but it just makes millennials cringe and the films boring. I can’t help but think about all of the runtime wasted on this shoddy subplot that could have been used to flesh out so many other plot lines in the film.

Whenever I exit a theater, turn off a television, or close a computer after a movie, I begin to ask myself if I could see other people liking the film. I genuinely think some Bourne fans could enjoy Jason Bourne. I even found myself gazing in awe whenever Matt Damon was being awesome, but how often did that actually happen? The film has everything you would expect from a Bourne film, but it falls short through its faulty story and flimsy attempt at being a social commentary.

Rating: C

Also, if you haven’t seen the first three films, you are doing yourself a massive disservice.