Thursday, September 01, 2016

'Jason Bourne' Is a Solid Action Thriller, but a Disappointing Jason Bourne Film

Jason Bourne is one of the greatest fictional spooks ever.  He’s not only a fantastic badass, but a well-realized character as a whole.  And the Bourne Trilogy is one of the best film trilogies ever made, with it getting better with each succeeding installment.  The fourth movie in the franchise, which was more of a spin-off than a sequel, The Bourne Legacy, was a decent action thriller carried by Jeremy Renner’s charisma, oomph, and commitment in the lead role.  However, the absence of the Jason Bourne character had proven to be a big hindrance to that movie, which didn’t measure up to the quality of its predecessors.  Thus, when it was announced that Matt Damon had agreed to reprise the role in the fifth movie of the franchise, I was ecstatic.

But though I was excited for this movie, there were some early details that gave me some worry.  First, I was hoping that this movie would have Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross (Renner’s character in Legacy) meet up.  But that wouldn’t be the case.  Second, I thought the given title, Jason Bourne, was poorly thought of and just plain dumb.  Everybody knows that this movie was going to be about Jason Bourne.  It’s like titling a 007 film James Bond or a Mission Impossible movie Ethan Hunt.  It also bugged me that the title was a “combo breaker”, since the titles of the first four Bourne movies were based on the titles of the first four Bourne novels; I would have been happier if the movie was titled The Bourne Betrayal, the title of fifth novel.
Jason Bourne is set a decade after the events of Ultimatum (the third movie).  Bourne (Matt Damon) has been living under the grid, making a living by participating in illegal fighting rings.  But when Nicky (Julie Stiles) contacts him regarding a critical truth about his past that she has discovered after recently hacking the CIA mainframe, he’s obliged to resurface.  With Bourne back on the CIA’s radar, Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), the head of the Agency’s Cyber Ops Division, to locate him, while at the same time, secretly tasks a vengeful Asset (Vincent Cassel) to liquidate him.

It’s a solid action thriller.  But it’s easily the least of Damon’s Bourne outings; it’s not as well-written, exciting, cerebral, and gripping as the first three movies – far from it.  In fact, there were even times, while watching, that I kind of felt I enjoyed The Bourne Legacy more.
Like I feared from the indication of simply titling the film as Jason Bourne, the movie lacks sufficient creativity and thoughtfulness.  Its themes felt like retreads, and the storytelling doesn’t have the same sense of volatility and surprise that the franchise is known for.

I think its handling of the character of Nicky is a prime embodiment of how predictable this movie had turned out to be. (Mild spoilers… maybe.) Right from the start, I felt like Nicky was going to die.  It was a clichéd path that I wish the movie would divert from.  But she was indeed killed off.  Worse, one could see her impending death coming a mile away.  After that, I realized what this movie was going to be; formulaic and slack in narrative execution, and there would be no surprising twists to be had.
Is Jason Bourne a bad movie? No.  Is it disappointing?  Absolutely!  The first three movies were indications on how terrific a Jason Bourne movie could be.  And this movie essentially failed to reach the benchmark.

Hopefully, a Bourne 6 will still be made, and that the franchise can bounce back.  Also, it would be nice to see Damon and Renner cross paths.

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