By Michael Kaye
Jason Bourne (Review)
2016 has been an interesting year in terms of sequels. Some of them turned out to be successes like The Conjuring 2, Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War, while others crashed and burned, such as Alice Through the Looking Glass, Zoolander 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Today it's Matt Damon's turn, as he's reunited with director Paul Greengrass to revive the critically acclaimed Bourne franchise with the latest installment, simply titled Jason Bourne.
Here's the story. A decade after his disappearance at the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne unexpectedly resurfaces at a time when the world is faced with unprecedented instability. At the same time, a new program, Operation Ironhand, has been created to hunt him down while he is still trying to find all the answers to his past.
This is the first Damon-led movie in the franchise made without screenwriter Tony Gilroy's involvement, and the second movie overall to stray from the original Robert Ludlum novels. I'd be lying if I said those weren't major red flags, but the good news is that didn't completely take away from my enjoyment of the film. I'm not trying to suggest that this movie was as good as Ultimatum, but I found it more entertaining than Identity and it's certainly better than Legacy. I'll elaborate in my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is awesome. This might actually be Matt Damon's best performance as the titular character. Remember back in 2002 when he was first cast in The Bourne Identity, and nobody really took him seriously? Yeah, we've come a long way since then, and he's gotten so much better as an actor too, working with such legends as Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott. And just like the rest of the franchise, he surrounds himself with the absolute best in the business. Tommy Lee Jones is the big bad this time around as CIA director Robert Dewey, while Alicia Vikander plays agent Heather Lee. Unfortunately Vikander doesn't get to do all that much kicking ass, but never fear, that's exactly what next year's Tomb Raider reboot is for. Vincent Cassel plays Asset, an Ironhand assassin who's sent to take out Bourne. There's not a whole lot to his character except for a cold, intimidating presence the likes of a terminator. In fact, the more I think about it, I wouldn't mind seeing him as a potential Deathstroke in the DCEU. Finally we have Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor, a Mark Zuckerberg-type character who's working with the CIA as a tech specialist.
Paul Greengrass has triumphantly reclaimed his throne as the king of this grounded, documentary-style action. Anyone else who has tried to copy Greengrass's style simply cannot pull it off the way he can, and it just ends up looking sloppy. Most people who film action using shaky cam usually do it to mask poor choreography, while Greengrass uses it as a way to suck us into the world he's created. The only possible use of CGI that I noticed were in the new flashback scenes just to make Damon look a few years younger, but other than that, most of what you see on screen is actually happening. The best example of this is actually my favorite action set piece in the movie, and that's the epic car chase on the Las Vegas strip, with one of the best and biggest car crashes I've seen since maybe The Blues Brothers.
The last pure positive I have is for the music. John Powell is back, and he's teamed up with David Buckley to revamp the main theme, and to give scenes like the Vegas car chase some more adrenaline. It still amazes me how criminally underrated Powell is as a composer, even though he's been around for at least 20 years now. And of course, you can't end a Bourne movie without Moby's "Extreme Ways," which has become a permanent staple of the franchise.
I don't really wanna call these negatives, more like observations. None of these really hindered my enjoyment of the film, but I can easily see them being problematic for others.
First off, Tony Gilroy's absence is definitely felt in the screenplay. It's not that Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse did a bad job, just that it wasn't as tight as the previous installments. I didn't mind Riz Ahmed's character, but his subplot felt a little too on the nose with the message about privacy on social media. I mean, sure, it's inevitable for the Bourne movies to tap into politics, but if you go too far you run the risk of taking focus away from what's really important, which is Jason Bourne's journey.
Finally, this is more problematic for newcomers, but it's possible that Jason Bourne may have been plagued with the John Carter effect. What am I referring to? Well, it's when a highly influential property spawns numerous imitators, then comes back into the forefront after a long hiatus. The result is the original property feeling stale compared to the competition, since everything that made it fresh to begin with has been spread throughout other movies, and possibly done better.
Overall, I had a really good time with Jason Bourne. If I had to rank this movie among the rest of the franchise, I'd put it smack dab in the middle at #3, below Supremacy and Ultimatum, but above Identity and Legacy. In a way you could compare this movie to Star Wars The Force Awakens, as both movies can at times feel like a collection of greatest hits, yet have succeeded in bringing life back into the franchise. I hope this isn't the last we see of the Bourne franchise, as I could easily see more story possibilities opening up in the future.
Now I want to hear what you guys have to say. Have you seen Jason Bourne, and if so what did you think? Also, how would you rank the Bourne franchise, and would you like to see more sequels moving forward? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn join forces to take down the idea of the perfect parent in Bad Moms!