Jason Bourne (2016) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Running Time: 123 min.
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Scott Shepherd, Ato Essandoh
Director: Paul Greengrass
Screenplay: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Review published August 1, 2016
Better alternate titles: Bourne Again or Still Bourne.
Matt Damon (The Martian, The Monuments Men) returns after a one-film hiatus as the titular Jason Bourne, once again working with Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass for another conspiracy-based actioner with lots of camera work that shakes, rattles and rolls. Greengrass also serves as the co-screenwriter this time out, along with his film editor, Christopher Rouse, which may be apropos, given that about 80% of the barebones film is driven using camera techniques and editing more so than through dialogue. While no one goes to a Bourne flick for the sparkling dialogue and repartee, the series sorely misses the storytelling style of Tony Gilroy, who wrote all four prior films in the series, including directing the Damon-less Bourne Legacy.
This chapter in the saga finds Jason Bourne giving up the spy game and living completely off the grid, earning his keep as a bruising slugger in the Eastern European underground fighting circuit. That's until he's pulled out by his old crony in the CIA, Nicky Parsons (Stiles, Closed Circuit), who has gone rogue to deliver intel to Jason that she's hacked regarding the identity and mysterious death of his father, as well as his key involvement in a top-secret government operation. Tenacious CIA director Robert Dewey (Jones, Criminal) is hot on their trail, but he doesn't so much want Bourne to come in out of the cold so much as think he is better off dead for being uncontainable and knowing far too much, which might jeopardize their current plot to utilize a monumentally popular social-media platform dubbed "Deep Dream" to spy on the majority of the world's population. Dewey's underling, Heather Lee (Vikander, Burnt), meanwhile, searches for a way to get Bourne on board without taking him out.
Your interest and level of potential entertainment you derive from Jason Bourne will probably be most dependent on what you found so enjoyable about the previous films. If you're mostly looking for some dynamic action sequences set in recognizable places like Rome, Athens, London and Vegas, you'll likely come away satisfied. If you're looking for Damon and Greengrass to have used the nine years since their previous effort to come up with something new, novel, or even different than anything you've seen before, you're going to come away feeling like Jason Bourne is an empty and vapid exercise in continuing a story beyond its worth. Pure and simple, Damon and Greengrass didn't come together because they had a dynamite Jason Bourne story they wanted to tell, but rather, the Universal Pictures were willing to pay cash by the truckload to continue to try to squeeze more eggs from their golden goose until it has none left to give.
While Jason Bourne delivers on the goods that most audiences are expecting, that's also part of the problem. Greengrass is content to pad out about twenty minutes worth of plotting with about ninety minutes of scenes of characters walking briskly, running, driving, or shooting at one another, all shot from about a dozen camera angles, shakily, and edited to the point where it feels like things are much more exciting than they actually are. While it's nice that they continue to give more background to the Bourne character, they're parceling each tidbit out in such a way that we can expect this and future entries to merely give us one new tidbit of Bourne's past that makes him a danger to keep alive, then build a two-hour movie around that plot.
The film has become such a formula now that many viewers can already feel like they've already viewed the next cat-and-mouse plotted film before it's even in production: Matt Damon's on the run, a famous actor will play the director of a secret government organization with a mysterious code name that's out to silence him permanently, and an attractive female will be the only ally that can help him, while he clobbers bad guys in high buildings and on speeding motor vehicles in a variety of picturesque places around the globe. Jason Bourne was once the antidote to his near namesake, James Bond, but now he has become just as invincible, and also as predictable. Along those lines, this one's strictly for those who prefer their direction 'shaken, not stirring'.
©2016 Vince Leo