By: Muneeb Arshid
Nine years. Well, four actually, but nine for those keeping track of the important Bourne films. At the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, everyone assumed that the series would most likely be over at that point since Bourne had pretty much learned everything about his past. However, news of a renewed Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass partnership a decade later had people excited to see what the next Jason Bourne adventure would bring. This brings us to the aptly named Jason Bourne, the next adventure.
Or is it? The words to describe Jason Bourne would not exactly be the ones that many would have expected prior to the release of the film. There was a certain expectation that what we would get this time around would be something meaningful that would be able to build upon the original trilogy. What we get in reality, is more of an extended epilogue to The Bourne Ultimatum rather than a grizzled version of Jason Bourne.
The story picks up approximately ten years after the events of both Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy, where the CIA is heavily involved, and certainly have not learned their lessons about special black ops programs. The directors and personnel may have changed (for the most part), but the same ol’ CIA is still there. Bourne (Matt Damon) is now living completely off the grid, participating in illegal fighting “ventures” until he comes into contact with an old “friend,” former CIA technician, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Parsons has obtained some “information” that is quite reminiscent of the previous films and plans to release the info and expose the CIA black ops programs to the public (once again). She encounters certain information that is pertinent to Bourne himself and goes to find him in Greece. All this snooping around ends up alerting the CIA’s Cyber Ops division led by Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), who make it their task to once and for all finish Bourne and his associates.
Sound familiar? I thought it would. What ensues is another set of many chase sequences in exotic-ish locales which form the basis of the extreme similarities with the past films. I’ll leave out the actual details of the plot in terms of the information revealed about Bourne’s past, but that is where the crux of the problem lies. The film is essentially just stuck in the past. It so badly wants to relive the old story and add just one single layer that director Paul Greengrass seems to have forgotten that audiences aren’t patient enough, especially those who have waited for such a long time for a film of this ilk, for the film to re-tread on old plot points once again. The potential for this film to add multiple layers of story to Bourne’s past may have worked whole-heartedly better. Oh, and it isn’t just the story that feels similar, but some new characters do as well. None more so than Vikander’s Lee, who’s motivation progresses in a way that is similar to how Joan Allen‘s Pam Landy flipped her allegiances away from the Agency to Bourne.
Speaking of Paul Greengrass, we would be remiss in not talking about that glorious shaky-cam once again. Here’s the thing: when the film is rattling along with an engaging plot, you can blissfully ignore issues such as “shaky” cinematography in those instances as was the case with The Bourne Ultimatum. Here we have a case where the story just isn’t engaging enough for you not to notice the excessive amounts of shaky cam. It is vastly noticeable here, especially during the incomprehensible action sequences. You would be a visual saint if you could honestly say that you could follow along with the sequences. The chase sequences, on the other hand, weren’t so bad as they produced the same amount of intrigue and exhilarating moments as the previous films. A mixture of both excitement but also elements of claustrophobia especially during the scene in Greece through the anti-austerity riots. However, any time that Bourne was versus. “Opponent XYZ of the day”, that was the point at which you could fall asleep until the end of the altercation, as the visual outcome might actually be better with your eyes shut.
One thing that the film does get right, according to someone who is studying the subject, was the coding and computer work shown in the film. Apart from a remark by a character early on to “use SQL for hacking purposes” (which my brain still hasn’t figured out), the film has gone to lengths to ensure that the cybercrime portion of the film is as accurate as possible. For a film that portrayed the Cyber Ops division of the CIA, it had to make sure that the computer work was as accurate as possible in a world where vast majorities of the public understand how these programs work and the inaccuracy of their portrayal would not have helped the credibility of Jason Bourne.
I’m not going to lie, there were many instances where I felt as though the film should be done and over with. This was not the movie that I was expecting to watch after a hiatus of 9 years. The film did end in a way that you could definitely expect more from Damon and co. but would that be the wisest decision in the future? I’m not sure; however, it does seem to be that a future sequel could be a lot better as it looks to explore Bourne’s possible renewed relationship with the CIA. Jason Bourne is definitely the worst of all the Bourne films. Even Legacy saw the filmmakers come up with a new aspect of the story that grounded the film by making us understand another operative’s experience of the Bourne saga, no matter how boring The Bourne Legacy may have been.
Very disappointingly, We, at TFL, can only grant Jason Bourne a grade of C- (6.0/10).