Jason Bourne Review

Jason Bourne (Reviews) Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Short Version: Jason Bourne is a thinly-paned window to the excitement of a franchise from yesteryear.

Jason Bourne returns us to the shadowy world of mentally-conditioned assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), about a decade after The Bourne Ultimatum, and a bit after the spinoff departure that was The Bourne Legacy. When we catch up with Jason, he's hiding in third-world Middle East territories, brawling for a living (or out of boredom) while plagued by returning memories of who he was during and before his time in Operation Blackbriar.

Bourne's self-imposed exile is shattered with the reappearance of CIA tech guru Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), after she's hacked The Agency's database to learn secrets about Bourne's recruitment into the program. Thought it puts both their lives on the line, Nicky implores Bourne to cleanse his troubled mind and soul by finally discovering the real truth about what pulled him down his dark path. Though he wants to ignore it, that small beacon of hope is enough to lure Bourne back into the fight.

Julia Stiles in Jason Bourne (2017)
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Jason Bourne brings back Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum team Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, and thanks to the couple's efforts, Jason Bourne is another high-octane Bourne action-thriller. The only problem is: there's little novelty to be found in the overly-familiar.

The script by Greengrass and his longtime collaborator Christopher Rouse is equally too familiar with this franchise and its mythos, to the point that they never pause to re-sell us on why we should be fascinated or excited by it. Jason Bourne plays like the season premiere for a TV series that has gotten a bit long in the tooth, throwing us back in like the time we've spent immersed in this world is sufficient enough to carry us through. However, as the film literally shows us, there has been quite a bit of time that spanned since Damon first stepped into the Bourne role (way back in 2002), and with spinoffs and all the action movie copycats that have come along since, the assumption that this character and his story still warrants a prestigious place in our memories may have been a bit of an egotistical assumption on the filmmakers' part.

Jason Bourne (2016) Action Scenes Sequences Stunts
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

It doesn't help that the story and film are constructed in Greengrass's signature frenetic guerilla-style directing. Even though the "shaky cam" format is a much steadier this time, the film still plays like a video game, with Bourne progressing from level to level, fight to fight, right from the onset and up until the ending. It all feels staged and choreographed to hit all the marks, while the actual details of the story float by in code names and references that are delivered so quickly and stoically that they hardly have any impact at all. The "reveal" at the heart of the story is somehow meant to be a redeeming new starting point for Bourne - but really it's just a heavy bit of retconning that doesn't hold nearly as much significance as it wants to have.

For his part, Damon still looks great in the role despite the decade-plus since he first changed the action movie genre into a brutal barrage of close-quarter-combat quick cuts. The film doesn't really require more depth from the Bourne, other than the trademark silent brooding look and demanding physical action - which is to say, Damon doesn't have much new ground to cover, which only adds to the feeling that we (like him) are re-treading the same ground.

Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones in Jason Bourne (2017)
(Photo: Universal Pictures)

The franchise adds some new faces to the cast this round - a mix of veteran actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel, and newcomers like Alicia Vikander. None of the actors get much in the way of drama or action - with the exception of Cassel, who has some impressive action moments. Vikander gets something of a story arc, but her mechanical demeanour and unidentifiable accent create more mystery than characterization. Tommy Lee Jones is supposed to be a nefarious black-ops boss, but is just as stone-faced a villain as he is... well, anything. All together, this is probably the least interesting collection of antagonists/allies that Bourne has had, making the conflict in the film hard to get excited about.

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In the end, Jason Bourne is a thinly-paned window to the excitement of a franchise from yesteryear. In the modern action landscape it's just a forgettable slice of something all-too-common - and even within the annals of the franchise, this entry is forgettable enough that bringing back Jeremy Renner's spinoff character Aaron Cross would be a welcome shot of life. Or maybe we've just gotten all we're going to get out of the entire world of Bourne. Based on where this film leaves things, even Bourne himself may be mulling that question over.

Jason Bourne is now in theaters. It is two hours long and is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.