By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Bourne is back, but not quite as compelling as he is in his previous three films. Even though he still kicks major ass in some thrilling action sequences, it seems like Jason Bourne suffers from a bout of sequelitis. The first three films have an engaging story arc, but the new film seems to be clinging to it for dear life, trying to ride it out as long as it can. The overall result is not all bad, but I think it is time for Bourne to stop worrying about his past and do something bold and different. It is time for the filmmakers of this, otherwise good, franchise to move the story along into new territories.
Matt Damon makes a welcome return to his role as Jason Bourne. The former assassin has been in hiding for a decade trying to forget the sins of his past. Bourne has been living in Greece, making a living as an underground fighter. Meanwhile, his former ally Nikki Parsons (Julia Stiles) has been working with whistle-blower Christian Dassault to expose the wicked secrets of the C.I.A. When Nikki discovers more information about Bourne’s past life as David Webb, she seeks him out to share her findings with him. With the agency already hot on her trail, Nikki leads them straight to Bourne, and C.I.A. director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) orders their elimination.
Writer/director Paul Greengrass also returns to helm this latest installment and his signature style (for better or worse, depending on one’s tastes) is all over this movie. I have always had mixed feelings about Greengrass’ shaky cam action which he seems to always demand from all of his cinematographers. It works in some moments, but makes the action hard to decipher in others. Still, the previous films have solid writing and a compelling story arc which fizzles a little here. This time Greengrass co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Rouse, who also serves as the film’s editor, and makes his writing debut with this movie. Unfortunately the absence of screenwriter Tony Gilroy (who wrote the previous films) is felt and the story in this movie is somewhat thin.
This is rather disappointing, considering the wealth of material available from the Bourne book series originated by author Robert Ludlum and continued by Eric Van Lustbader (after Ludlum’s passing). I have never actually read the books, but after doing some research prior to writing this review, I can tell that novels go into more interesting directions than the film series has. This particular installment simply feels like the producers are stalling for no good reason. I’m sure the diligent fans of the book series will be somewhat disappointed with this latest film entry.
Even though the story doesn’t go very far this time around, the action is still top-notch and thrilling. The movie does have its suspenseful moments with the expected cat and mouse chases, and Damon firing on all cylinders in full BAMF mode. Much has been said lately about the minimal amount of lines spoken by Bourne in this film, but the actor and character don’t really need to say too much. Bourne is a man of action and his actions usually speak quite loudly. It is a role that Damon portrays exceptionally and seems to be able to fill comfortably anytime. Julia Stiles also makes a welcome return as Nikki Parsons, but unfortunately doesn’t get to do as much this time.
The movie has several actors new to the Bourne franchise. The talented and lovely Alicia Vikander stars as Heather Lee, an expert computer hacker working for the C.I.A. who wants to bring Bourne back to the agency rather than kill him. Vikander delivers a solid performance, but her character’s development is somewhat limited. Tommy Lee Jones does well as the stoic and determined Director Robert Dewey. Jones has always had an undeniable screen presence and he is perfectly cast in this role. Another new Bourne actor is Vincent Cassell who kicks ass as a C.I.A. asset assigned to eliminate Jason and Nikki. There’s not a whole lot of dimension to his character, but he delivers solid work in portraying him, despite the limitations.
Despite the film’s limitations and weaknesses, I still recommend Jason Bourne for a matinee on a weekend afternoon. The action is fun and intense, and it is great to see Matt Damon return to what probably is his most popular movie role. I just wouldn’t expect too much from the story development. This Bourne installment may be thrilling, but it fails to move Bourne’s story forward. I sincerely hope the filmmakers behind the franchise take note of this movie’s flaws and decide to do something bold and exciting the next time around. They should take another look at the books that inspired the franchise. There is probably plenty of more interesting material there than there is in this particular film.