Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander
It’s been nine years since the last Bourne movie that mattered. (2012’s The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner, was a joke.) After saying he wouldn’t play the part again, Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne, with his director buddy Paul Greengrass in tow.
The result: Jason Bourne, a tedious, desperate and sad extension of the Bourne storyline. Jason Bourne is currently holding hands with Ghostbusters as a film prominently displaying how not to continue a beloved franchise.
At the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon’s Bourne woke up after a bridge dive and swam off into an unknown and unpredictable future. It seemed a fitting and perfect end to the character or, perhaps, that particular story arc. Bourne found out his real name, learned why he was an assassin with amnesia, and got himself a little revenge. Case closed, right?
Wrong. Money matters, and Universal wanted to keep the Bourne locomotive on track. An attempt to keep the franchise going with a new star—Renner’s awful Legacy—was stale. Universal saw an opportunity with Damon, who hadn’t had a major hit in many years. Damon decided to go back to the well before the release of The Martian last year, a movie that garnered him an Oscar nom and showed he was still bankable.
Greengrass and his writers have come up with a way to further confuse Bourne about his identity. As it turns out, there’s more to his amnesia. He doesn’t know everything after all! He’s also got some daddy issues.
The film starts with Bourne pulling a Rambo III, subjecting himself to public fights as a means of fueling his unquenched inner violent side. Former work associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) meets up with Bourne in Greece to tell him that she discovered more stuff about his identity while doing some computer hacking. For Jason Bourne … it’s not over yet.
It’s embarrassing to watch Damon and Greengrass go through the motions of the tired scenario they have put into play. One year after perhaps the most enjoyable and multidimensional performance ever from Damon in The Martian, he’s forced to put the now boring Bourne pants on again. His performance lacks dimension, emotion and humor. It’s not entirely his fault. The part is written that way. Ten years ago, Bourne was a cool role for Damon, one that allowed him to strip down and do something different. He’s grown as an actor since then, and has essentially outgrown Bourne. It feels like a step backward for him.
Greengrass tries to beef things up on the villainous end by employing Tommy Lee Jones as a CIA jerkface, which is a move as predictable and cliché as casting Tommy Lee Jones as Tommy Lee Jones. Jones invests nothing new into his character, a type that he has played many times before.
Oscar winner Alicia Vikander shows up as an ambitious CIA employee looking to make her mark. Her performance here is more robotic than her work as an actual robot in Ex Machina. Vincent Cassel is also on board as a hired assassin called “The Asset.” Man, somebody had to work overtime to come up with that name.
There had to be a better way to do this. How about giving Bourne a new career, one that he’s happy with, and then he finds out something is still wrong in his past? Or just make him a paid assassin who is truly screwed up thanks to his messed up past. The new gimmick Greengrass and friends come up with to further extend Bourne’s identity crisis is not shocking, surprising or inventive. It feels drawn out.
Attempts to modernize Bourne with mumbo jumbo involving a tech mogul (Riz Ahmed) and his new social media platform make parts of this movie feel like a jettisoned episode of Silicon Valley.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens stands as the best recent attempt to continue a franchise story without making it feel forced, desperate—there’s that word again—and a blatant attempt to cash some checks. Jason Bourne does nothing to better the franchise, and this story line needs to stop, and stop now.