Jason Bourne (2016)
Jason Bourne (2016)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 3 min.

Release Date: July 29th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul Greengrass Actors: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh, Riz Ahmed, Kaya Yuzuki

 


 

J

ason Bourne (Matt Damon) remembers his past. He recalls the killings he carried out, the numerous deaths of enemies, allies, and loved ones, and his voluntary induction into the CIA’s top secret Treadstone project for elite soldiers. He believes he knows the truth – but does he? After years of staying off the grid, Bourne surfaces once again when Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) contacts him with information that contradicts the events leading up to his enrollment in Treadstone. Digging deeper into classified files obtained through a database hack, the former operative is pitted against CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his protege, cyber specialist Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). As Bourne inches closer to uncovering carefully guarded secrets, he must utilize every facet of his training to stay one step ahead of the authorities and a deadly assassin (Vincent Cassel) in a world immersed in high-tech surveillance.

Like Rambo and Rocky, Jason Bourne has finally reached the sequel that reduces the title down to just his name. And like the recent “Independence Day: Resurgence” – a film that took far too long to make – this fourth outing simply can’t find a reason to exist. Despite nearly a decade having passed since Damon left the series, the returning filmmakers and director are unable to tell a fresh story or generate new characters. It’s as if Bourne has already undertaken every possible mission, leaving nothing but a revisitation to the exact same premise of the last two features. He’s still trying to remain in the shadows and he’s still battling the corruption of the CIA. Even though the setting is modernized, it possesses astonishingly little significance.

There’s a reference to Snowden, to social media, to Silicon Valley, to a bustling tech convention (drawing a strange parallel to “Now You See Me 2”), and to the current real-life privacy issue between the FBI and Apple’s potential for an iPhone backdoor, but the difference between this updated environment and the early 2000s is inconsequential to Bourne’s ability to elude the authorities, to travel between countries, to infiltrate any building, or to steal anyone’s equipment and identity. In fact, the technological overhaul only draws further attention to the impossibility of it all. It’s practically nonsensical to include a “smart” sniper scope that somehow live-streams its crosshairs from Athens straight to the CIA headquarters in the U.S., the failure for airbags to deploy only when it would be inconvenient for the action (a previous scene goes so far as to show an airbag collide with a driver’s face, thereby defining the actuality of the device within the film), and the “Enhance!” command given to CCTV operators who click a button to turn a blonde blur into a razor sharp image of Julia Stiles.

And that doesn’t even get into the farfetchedness of the assets and resources always a phone call away, or the complete absence of intercontinental jurisdictional red tape, or the apparently standard spy training on how to hot-wire an elevator. Plus, a sense of timeliness and intellectualness is brought about through the use of malware and state-of-the-art recording equipment, even though action fans will surely be looking for the broad, simple appeal of explosions and shootouts. A particularly confounding scene shows a flash drive with the word “Encrypted” printed on the side, clearly demonstrating a need to inform the least computer-savvy of the viewership.

Ultimately, “Jason Bourne” is all about the chase. It’s a particularly difficult chase to focus on, considering the editing style, which has handheld camerawork flitting about so fast and furiously that it seems to perpetually hide genuine stunts or actual martial arts prowess (one must wonder how utterly impressive the climactic car chase would have been if unobscured by all the jerky movements and rapid cuts, or how smug the opening scene could have been with Bourne’s one-punch street fight had it been straightforward), but it’s nevertheless the central point of the adventure. It’s never really about catching up to the villains or the heroes; it’s the suspense of the pursuit, with all the complexities of choreography and location changes and misdirection to keep things nerve-wracking.

And certainly it’s most amusing when Bourne surveils the surveyors, staying one step ahead of the very people trying to track him down. Confusingly, everything Bourne does here to keep this follow-up in line with the rest of the franchise is the exact same as before, serving instead to prevent the picture from demonstrating any creativity. Even the parting shot, which expectedly segues into the signature end-title music, completely destroys the integrity of a character’s motives just to ring true with the snappy acknowledgement that Bourne knows everything about his surroundings – quite possibly learning of psychological mainsprings before they’re evident in the very minds of his adversaries.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10