Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Stars: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel
Review By Mike DeAngelo:
*MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
I love a good, smart, well-constructed action flick. The original Bourne trilogy (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, & The Bourne Ultimatum) basically represents the gold standard of how to pull off a modern action franchise. The movies were simple enough for all audiences to digest, but they never lowered themselves to reach a wider audience. Many critics referred to Bourne as “the thinking man’s James Bond.” This is largely thanks to the solid stories & wealth of details in Robert Ludlum’s books that spawned the film adaptations; however, Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, is also largely responsible for the Bourne look and feel that people remember the movies for. He took what was there in Doug Liman’s first film and refined it to gritty, unrelentingly tense perfection. So, when it was announced that Damon and Greengrass were returning for another go-round with Bourne after the poorly-received Jeremy Renner led universe expansion, The Bourne Legacy, I figured it was a hole-in-one. Boy, was I wrong.
Let me just say it straight away – Jason Bourne is a bad movie. It’s not because you can’t tell any more stories without the books to support. It’s not because Damon is too old for the character. It’s because the writing is just plain awful. Paul Greengrass obviously understands the visual language of Bourne (that’s still very much in tact); however, Greengrass and his faithful film editor, Chris Rouse don’t understand how to write a Bourne movie. In all of the other films, they had a more accomplished writer in Tony Gilroy to eloquently fill in the gaps. This time, for whatever reason, they decided to go it alone. A lot of the traditional ingredients and plot points are there, but the genius of Bourne was in the details. This script has absolutely nothing to offer in that department. The dialogue is clunky at best and there’s little to no logic to the plot itself.
One thing that bothered me about this movie is that Bourne gets lucky far too much. In the other films, Bourne was never lucky. He used his brain and whatever was around him to fight his way out of sticky situations. There are multiple points in this movie where Bourne just happens to survive or just happens to be near a device that he needs, etc. It’s just lazy moment after lazy moment. The only scene that feels like vintage Bourne, is the opening action scene in Greece. Trust me when I say that it's all downhill from there.
With that said, Matt Damon is not the issue here either. Damon is still very much Bourne. His performance is really the only thing that feels remotely close to the old movies here. Sadly, the script gives him nothing to work with outside of his action scenes.
New comers Alicia Vikander (government cyber-agent on Bourne’s side), Tommy Lee Jones (evil CIA man), and Vincent Cassel (evil CIA man’s hitman) fill the cliché character quota to the point where the movie almost feels like a Bourne parody at times. At one point in the movie, Bourne accesses Alicia’s character bio on the internet and her quote is literally something to the effect of, “I joined the CIA because I want to make a difference in the world.” My eyes rolled so hard that they nearly left my head.
One of the big staples of a Bourne movie is Bourne being hunted by a big, bad assassin throughout the film. To no one’s surprise, this happens again - Vincent Cassel fills that role this time around. I have no issue with the assassin angle being re-used, but I have to take issue with one big thing – and I need to go into minor spoiler territory to address it. So, you’ve been warned. OK, still here? - Vincent’s character is vengefully hunting Bourne throughout the entire movie, even ignoring orders to be able to take a shot at killing Bourne; however, when he finally comes face-to-face with him at the end, Vincent runs, steals a police vehicle, and attempts to escape Bourne. Why? I have no clue, other than they needed a final chase scene to close out the movie – that’s literally the only viable reason. I was so confused that I couldn’t even enjoy the final big action scene in Las Vegas.
Stir in a ham-fisted government anti-privacy plot and a scene to lazily tie it into a bow at the end, and that’s about it. We’re basically left with Bourne having accomplished nothing. It’s a movie that desperately needed another writer to take a pass at the script to erase Greengrass’ stupidity. Was Tony Gilroy (writer of the original Bourne trilogy and The Bourne Legacy) too busy this time around? If that’s the case, they should have waited, because his voice is dearly missed. Let’s hope he’s available for the inevitable sequel, so we can just pretend this little incident never even happened.
OVERALL SCORE: 5/10 Evil Government Employees