After a long wait, we now have a new Bourne film that actually features Jason Bourne (not just in the title but the actual movie itself). As you’ve been made aware in the past few weeks, I’m a huge fan of the original Bourne trilogy. What Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass accomplished with those last two films have been the template for action films ever since. These films were so groundbreaking and huge in terms of filming action and telling action stories that the 007 folks across the pond began using the Bourne template to make the Daniel Craig-led Bond films. A grounded adventure with a grounded protagonist. As I pointed out in my reviews, very few films have been able to replicate this formula as successfully, if at all. That’s why seeing Damon and Greengrass return to the franchise was a breath of fresh air. But does this mean Jason Bourne is any good? Here’s the review.
The film takes place nearly 10 years after Ultimatum. Bourne (Damon) is in hiding over in Greece when his old pal from the CIA Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), comes across some government documents that have more info into Bourne’s past. The Director of the CIA (Tommy Lee Jones) isn’t having any of it, and will do everything in his power to make sure Parsons or Bourne doesn’t blow the lid off of these classified documents. Because of this, the CIA is going after Bourne once again, with Bourne having to go on the run in yet another globe-trotting thriller that cultivates in an exciting finale in Las Vegas.
The film, directed by Greengrass and co-written by Greengrass, Christopher Rouse and uncredited work by Damon himself, is the second Bourne film to not be based on any of the Robert Ludlum novels (not that it really matters since the original trilogy strayed so far away from those books). Speaking of Rouse, the Academy Award-winning editor comes back to the editing bay for this picture, marking the continuing partnership between him and Greengrass after Supremacy. The reason I bring up the screenplay first is because it’s easily the film’s biggest flaw. As I mentioned in my earlier reviews of the Bourne films that Greengrass and Damon were the brains behind the franchise, Tony Gilroy had a huge part in making the films as effective as they were as being the credited screenwriter on all four of the previous Bourne films. With the exception of The Bourne Legacy (which Gilroy wrote and directed), the man is incredibly talented, having been nominated for a couple of Oscars in the past for Michael Clayton. While its great to see Greengrass and co. in full control of the flick, Gilroy’s presence is sorely missed, which is interesting since the reason The Bourne Legacy sucked so bad was because Greengrass or Damon were nowhere to be seen, and it was all Gilroy.
The story isn’t all that complicated or exciting. I don’t want to get into any details out of spoiling stuff for you, but I don’t think you’d be going to this film for the compelling story (the story wasn’t always one of the stronger parts of this franchise anyways). You came to see Matt Damon kick some ass as Bourne, he does exactly that. You just don’t really care as much about it as you did ten years ago, or that’s how I felt at least. While Damon is in terrific physical shape for the role, he doesn’t look like he really cares 100% about being in this film. He just finally gave in to a decade of studio pressure and made another Bourne film instead. He still gives a decent performance in the role, but you can feel that he’s moved on to other things in his career, and doesn’t care retracing his steps (I swear that’s not a pun) by playing Bourne again.
However, I still liked the movie. The script isn’t that great, Damon doesn’t seem to care as much as he did about this films as he did a decade ago, but it’s still a very well made action film. The franchise itself might be running out of steam, but Greengrass shows no sign of him doing so. The action scenes in the film are as spectacular as any of the ones in the original trilogy. The camera work and editing is solid enough for me to keep interest in the film, even if the interest is toward a bland story. At least the performances are decent. Tommy Lee Jones is essentially playing the evil CIA director character in his sleep, but he’s still pretty good at it. Recent Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander joins the franchise as a CIA agent who isn’t quite sure of the mission that Jones’ character is playing out. While it’s not the actor’s most memorable performance, she still performs the role well. She’s an unbelievably talented actress, and it’s great to see her in bigger films.
The presence of Joan Allen or David Strathairn from the last Bourne film are missed too. What’s interesting is that with the exception of Damon and Stiles, the rest of the cast is entirely new. Granted, the series wrapped up the storylines for Allen and Strathairn in Ultimatum, but it would’ve been nice to see them come back in some shape or form. Instead, we get an entertaining action film that’s shy from being great, and a star that probably wishes he could go back to doing interesting character work. And that’s a bit of a shame since I was so looking forward to Jason Bourne. Damon kept talking about how him and Greengrass had come up with this incredible idea that would’ve brought Bourne into this new decade, and it sounded really exciting. Instead, it’s a film that takes a step back instead of one forward.
Again, I did enjoy a good chunk of the film. The action was really solid and I was never bored watching it. Even though Damon doesn’t really seem to care a whole lot about being in the film, he’s still a phenomenal actor who always brings something at least halfway interesting to every performance. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ve probably already bought your tickets, so I don’t need to say if you need to skip or see it. If you’re still skeptical, I’d say go see it. Its fun, and it’s not as bad as some of the other films that’ve come out this summer. If Universal was smart, they’d stop making movies in this franchise. They had a great run in the previous decade, but the films don’t have the cultural gusto that they use to. But this film will probably make a boat-load of money, so expect to see another Bourne film again in the near future (hopefully with a more enthusiastic Damon and a better script).