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Review – Jason Bourne (2016)

Jason Bourne

UK Rated 12A
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander

Review contains spoilers

Matt Damon returns as the elusive black ops operative Jason Bourne, in an action-packed, fast-paced summer movie that packs a punch, but isn’t as good as the prior movies or as good as it could have been.

Damon’s much anticipated reprisal of the Jason Bourne character has been long rumoured, despite Matt’s uneasiness to revisit the character.

For years, Damon has been talking about he didn’t want to return for a part he clearly no longer likes, in a production he would rather not be in.

After all, the character arc had been fulfilled in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), there wasn’t anything else to bring. Further, Matt didn’t want to revisit the character without director Paul Greengrass at the helm.

Presumably, after a big money deal — both Greengrass and Damon are back on board; cinema goers can follow the continuing saga of Jason Bourne.

Living off the grid, and haunted by his own demons about his past; Bourne is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past, and to get revenge on those whom he blames for his situation.

Julia Stiles returns as Nicky Parson; a friend and former associate of Bourne, works with a hacker/whistle blower to expose the CIA black’s ops via a remote station in Iceland. This hack exposes Parson to the CIA, and they suspect that Parson is in league with Bourne, and fear that Jason will expose the CIA’s operations publicly.

Their tracking leads directly to Jason in the middle of a Greek Protest, used as a cover for the exchange of data between Parson and Bourne; however the CIA are hot on their tail.

Ordered by CIA director, Robert Dewey, the CIA hit squads track Jason throughout the Greek Protest; until Nicky is slain by a sniper, called “The Asset”.

The movie continues from there as a chase movie, with Jason chasing after the CIA black ops teams throughout the world; and the CIA director using “The Asset” to eliminate Jason once and for all.

Added into the mix is a social media platform (Facebook all but in name) and its dealings with the CIA director, and a constant theme of privacy runs throughout the movie; until the rip-roaring finale at a Tech convention in Texas; where The Asset and Jason Bourne match up in a car-chase finale.

There is a lot going on in Jason Bourne. The movie is a fast-past chase movie, things move at a fast pace; and I certainly enjoyed the experience.

However. Jason Bourne is the weakest of all the series.

It hasn’t got the class of the original, nor as the story as tight as “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007); neither is at as effective as The Bourne Supremacy (2004). My won feeling is the Ultimatum is the best one, but the original had impact; it influenced a lot of movies, including the James Bond franchise.

Things I liked;

In this movie we have Jason Bourne knowing who he actually is, cured of amnesia, and battling an even larger enemy than before. There are car chases, well choreographed fight scenes,shootouts,explosions and everything else you would want from an action movie. This is something I enjoyed.

I really liked the whole 2 or 3 false flag sub-plots, we find out Bourne’s own inclusion in the CIA black ops program was a false flag, and CIA Director is plotting to use a false flag to undermine the social media and stronger privacy.

I loved all scenes involving crowds in this movie. The riot, the crowds moving out of the buildings when the fire alarms went off, and the convention in Vegas. I don’t know exactly why, but I thought those were extremely well done.

The movie is about revenge, but its unexpected usage of revenge from both the viewpoint of Jason Bourne and “The Asset” is interesting. Its such a shame they abandoned it right at the end of the movie.

The original trilogy captured that impersonal sadness and futility of the whole situation whenever Bourne encounters an ‘asset’ and is forced to kill him. The asset has his orders and Bourne must defend himself, and someone has to die, that’s just the way the world works. It didn’t need any of these plot/character contrivances to be impactful.

It would have been good to revisit the scene where the Professor in Identity says:

The Professor: [the Professor’s dying words] Look at this. Look at what they make you give.

So what exactly are my issues with Jason Bourne?

Jason Bourne’s story was already pretty wrapped up in “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007). So I wasn’t sure why he was returning, or why the beats of the movie felt like the best bits of other movies put together.

The movie starts in a scene that kept me thinking of the start of “Rambo III”. Both Rambo and Bourne are in an underground fight scene, living off the grid. I wasn’t sure what those fight scenes had to do with the movie; other than show that Bourne doesn’t like living with his past

The social media platform sub-plot really grinds the movie, almost to a halt. Any time it’s mentioned or brought up, the movie slows down and I feel it’s just in there to score political points for the filmmakers.

Yes, we get it. Social media platforms, like Facebook, are in bed with the CIA and other alphabet soup government agencies. It adds pretty much nothing to the movie. It seems to go nowhere, except to stage the final scene.

I believe the whole social media platform sub-plot could have been gutted and still have the final scene, perhaps with some small changes.

Nicky Parson’s death is a throw-away scene and Bourne looked like he didn’t give two sh*ts about it, he just basically moved on.

It would have been good to have added Parson’s death to mean something to Jason; perhaps a few scenes where he blames himself for her death, and even reflect it in Heather Lee (played by Alicia Vikander) who could be in a similar situation and then Bourne redeem’s himself.

Talking of Alicia Vikander, I found her accent to be all over the place; she played her character very well, an ambitious career-first person who uses people to position herself further up the chain, much to the disdain for her colleagues.

Tommy Lee Jones didn’t really do much, he looked very weathered and old. But I did like him as an act, he didn’t seem to do much except twirl his moustache.

Beyond actors, I felt the movie has too many coincidences and hack-eyed attempts to loop everything together.

The coincidence that The Asset and Jason Bourne are tied together are just eye-rolling and lazy, especially how the Asset is the guy who killed Bourne’s father.

It’s just coincidence that the guy who’s chasing Bourne in the present was also the guy who killed his father and he has a reason to be pissed at Bourne now, making it a personal vendetta?

The coincidence that nearly every CCTV camera is hooked up to the Internet, and shared with the CIA

The coincidence that the CIA makes a decision that always works; such as pulling the plug on the power to hacking station kills everything, it’s not like they were on laptops, oh wait.

The coincidence of people from being spotted in a huge crowd with relative ease to having all the spy gadgets (crucial to the plot) being within arms reach at a convention, etc etc.

There was also small things like: The movie has a privacy stance; its against breaking privacy, except at the end when the movie breaches a character’s privacy? What was all that about?

One last thing I didn’t like at all and I feel I need to mention it.

The end fight scene between Jason Bourne and The Asset is filmed: in the dark, at night, in a sewer with full-on shaky camera. You don’t see ANYTHING. The 12A rating may have been part reason for the bad end fight.

The hits mean nothing, and have no power. The Asset is a constant threat in the movie, yet at the end; the fight is a meaningless mess that is ended within 5 minutes. WHAT A WASTE OF TIME!

Can Paul Greengrass not film fights? Seriously, just centre the fight on camera; position it stationary and ensure the actors’ faces are clear. Make all cuts clean, and keep the focus on the fight. Its pretty easy.

I really went into the cinema hoping that Greengrass and Hollywood would have learnt something from The Raid, and other action movies from the East, yet they make the same mistakes and you don’t see anything; it was really bad and made me really quite angry.

Things that should have not been in the movie:

  • “Enhance!”, Heather Lee barking orders to zoom on a still image.
  • “Use sql to corrupt their database”
  • Mr Social Media CEO getting a standing ovation for saying the platform had great privacy settings? I’ve never seen a tech crowd that excited about anything, particularly privacy.

So in summary.

“Jason Bourne” (2016) is a summer chase-action movie that rekindles some of the nostalgic memories of the prior movies, but certain elements such as poor fight filmography, poor character exposition and lazy coincidence scenes really brought this movie far below its predecessors.

It’s smarter-than-average action film that isn’t as good as its predecessors.

Rating: 6/10

Worth watching. But don’t expect anything special.