2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum brought Jason Bourne’s saga to a tidy conclusion, but left the door open for a potential return just in case. Nine years later, Universal has finally convinced Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to fling that door open and reveal exactly what our favorite amnesiac spy has been up to. The answer? Brooding, boxing, and still not knowing a whole lot about his past.
The film is clearly intended a course correction after 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, which tried to replace Jason Bourne with a new hero played by Jeremy Renner. Jason Bourne was going to restore the franchise to its former glory, by reuniting two of the men that had mad the original trilogy so beloved. At the same time, the changing times would thrust Bourne into “an austerity-riddled Europe and in a post-Snowden world,” as Damon put it. So, did the reunion of Greengrass and Damon do the trick? Is Jason Bourne a thrilling first chapter, or a limp, belated epilogue? Join us after the jump to let us know what you thought, but be warned that MAJOR SPOILERS lie ahead and in the comments.
Peter, Dave, and I have already weighed in on Jason Bourne, and frankly, none of us were all that enamored of it. Peter’s reaction was the most positive, and he still described it as “the dumber mass audience version of what we’ve seen before from the Bourne franchise.” I wrote that I found it “slick, competent, and numbingly dull.” But neither of us hated it as much as Dave, who declared, “Jason Bourne was so bad, it made me retroactively reconsider my love of the franchise.” Ouch.
While Jason Bourne brings back Damon and Greengrass, it leaves out one key contributor to the earlier films: screenwriter Tony Gilroy. Yes, Gilroy is the guy who wrote and directed the much-derided Bourne Legacy. But after watching Jason Bourne flash back to the same exact scene half a dozen times, I started to think maybe Aaron Cross’ chems weren’t so bad after all. Gilroy’s presence is sorely missed here, as the Jason Bourne script by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse combines ill-defined character motivations with thuddingly obvious dialogue. It feels as everyone involved with this movie is working off of a script outline, rather than a completed script. Damon is lucky that he only has to speak 25 lines in this thing.
Information is endlessly repeated, and themes are declared outright, as if we in the audience are idiots. (“Privacy is freedom!” one character says helpfully.) The plot barely bothers to try and cover up its contrivances. How does Jason Bourne track a villain in the final act? Conveniently, the tech conference is just giving away high-tech beacons by the bowlful, as if they’re stickers or candy or something similarly dirt-cheap. How does Alicia Vikander‘s Heather get the idea to bring Jason Bourne back in? She reads a document that says, “Jason Bourne may be brought back in.”
On the bright side, Jason Bourne does have a spectacular supporting cast including Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, and Tommy Lee Jones. They’re all actors who can do a lot with a little, and Vikander, in particular, works hard to bring some personality into her enigmatic character. If the next film (if there is a next film) wants to pick up with her Game of Thrones-y power play within the CIA, I wouldn’t complain. There’s an intensity to the big action setpieces that I think many fans will admire, though my favorite was the fistfight between Bourne and the Asset (Cassel) near the end. That one feels visceral in the way Greengrass does so well.
But enough about what I thought of Jason Bourne. What did you think? Were you excited or dispirited by Jason Bourne? Will you miss Nicky (Julia Stiles)? What kind of accent do you think Alicia Vikander was trying to do? Were you sad he didn’t get the opportunity to dye anyone’s hair this time? Did you remember all of that David Webb stuff going into this movie? Do the big reveals of this one (namely, that Bourne was tricked into volunteering) undermine the moral complexity of the earlier Bourne films, or do they just make the larger conspiracy more intriguing? And finally: would you want to see a Jason Bourne sequel?