MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Rating: ★★
Release year: 2016
Genre: Action Director: Paul Greengrass
For a film that’s supposed to be about Jason Bourne–his very name is the title of the movie–this film isn’t really about Jason Bourne. The tagline for Jason Bourne is “You know his name.” This is true; it’s David Webb, a fact that’s been thoroughly established in previous films. Much of the mystery related to Webb’s memory loss in previous films is gone here, and the stakes feel very low in the fifth film of this franchise. Despite the reuniting of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, Jason Bourne is the essence of mediocrity.
Once again, the CIA is on the hunt for Jason Bourne. Led by up-and-comer Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), the film relies heavily on computer and satellite surveillance to keep track of Bourne’s whereabouts, all while employing The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to stalk and assassinate Bourne, as well as anybody else who might be considered a threat to the CIA’s plans. Those plans involve an Internet company in the vein of Google called Deep Dream, and a new operating system which will allow users to sync up everything about their online lives, as well as allow the CIA to have full access to everyone’s privacy. (The tropes of an Internet operating system launch and the issues with surveillance culture seems far too common these days in action films–Eye in the Sky, Terminator Genysis, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Skyfall, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, etc.)
Jason Bourne trades in the thrilling action of previous entries for extended surveillance scenes. There’s a moment where Dewey exclaims, “He’s looking at a computer!” as the CIA task force watches a computer screen of Bourne watching another computer screen, all while the audience is watching the movie screen. Turns out that watching someone click a mouse and look at a computer screen is about as exciting in the movie as it is in real life. As in, it’s not. Greengrass and Co. do their best to create a thrilling atmosphere, relying heavily on Greengrass’ signature “shaky cam” aesthetic and a constantly pounding electronic soundtrack in an attempt to make the film’s plot more stimulating. The amount of attention given to both the CIA agents and the Internet company is far more than given to Bourne, who is mostly mute throughout the film. When he does speak, it’s mostly gruff tones and frustrated questions–“What?! Why?! How?!” etc. The film tries to bring a personal element into the mystery, but it ultimately makes it into a revenge film about the death of Bourne’s father (again, a trope that’s been employed quite a bit lately in action films–see Captain America: Civil War, Batman V. Superman, etc.). But the turn towards personal revenge occurs far too late in the film to make much sense, and the action sequences, when they do occur, are poorly lit and edited. Greengrass’s shaky cam already makes it difficult to grasp what’s happening on-screen–putting the climactic hand-to-hand combat fight in an underground sewer at night only adds to the confusion and disconnect with the audience. Ultimately the film can be summarized by the screenshot above–someone looking at a computer screen, hoping to see a glimpse of Bourne. If that sounds exciting to you, you may enjoy this film more than I did.
I do appreciate the presence of Vikander and Jones, doing their best to add tension and create compelling characters within a tired franchise. But the film raises too many questions, and not the right ones. (E.g. How does The Asset kill CIA agents without consequence? How does Bourne travel undetected throughout Europe, but can be easily and quickly tracked when the film needs a new surveillance scene? If there’s so much history between Bourne and Dewey and The Asset, where were they in previous films?) In this franchise, I’m still partial to Doug Liman’s original film, The Bourne Identity. Mystery, drama, memory-loss, and revelation all coincided with a well-told story and exemplary action sequences. I miss that Jason Bourne. Less shaky cameras. More intrigue, set design, and story-telling.
IMDB Listing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4196776/