After years of hints, denials, and rumors Jason Bourne has finally returned to theaters with Director Paul Greengrass back at the helm. Is his latest adventure a worthy addition to the series or should the filmmakers have just left well enough alone?
The CIA has been hacked. When it’s discovered that the perpetrator is former agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), the Agency immediately assumes that Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is involved. As is usually the case with Bourne, he’s nowhere near Parsons, nor has he seen her in years, but she gets him involved very quickly. The files that she’s stolen from the government have personal significance to Bourne as they tell of the possible involvement of his father (Gregg Henry) in the Treadstone project. The Agency is afraid that Bourne is hunting them again and is set to blow the lid off of their latest Black Ops program, Ironhand. CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is getting into bed with Mark Zuckerberg-like Internet mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) and the results will not be great for the world. Meanwhile, cyber specialist Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) makes her move to try and capture Bourne with the intent of luring him back into the fold, but her ultimate goal is a mystery. Dewey is more interested in eliminating Bourne and he enlists the help of an assassin (Vincent Cassel) that has a history with Bourne to do it. Will Bourne find the answers he’s looking for or is this the last mission he’ll ever undertake?
While Jason Bourne has some nice action sequences and it’s great to see Damon in the role again, there is really no reason for this movie to exist. It doesn’t really further Jason Bourne’s story and is more of a rehash of the last two Damon movies more than anything else. So, we’ve seen this movie before. In fact, we’ve seen it three times now, as The Bourne Ultimatum—while a great action film—is essentially the same story as The Bourne Supremacy, but more on that later. Jason Bourne presents yet another mystery man for Bourne to target and hunt down in order to get answers about his past, even though he says that he remembers everything. So, the film is entertaining enough, but it is ultimately redundant. There is also my least favorite movie trope on display here: the dreaded “Magic Computers.” This trope rears its ugly head right from the start when Nicky is hacking into the CIA. She finds a folder called “Black Operations,” because I’m sure that the CIA wouldn’t code their files, they’d surely call them exactly what they are. Then the trope manifests in the form of Heather Lee, who can hack anything to the point that it becomes laughable. Another issue I have with this film is that the story is pushed forward by convenience and assumption. That has also been done before in the earlier Bourne movies, but not to this extent. In the previous films, the assumptions get cleared up, but the government still needs to hunt Bourne because someone has a big secret that he might uncover. That happens here, but from the get go, the CIA immediately assumes that Bourne is involved with the only evidence being that nine years ago Nicky helped Bourne. This isn’t like 24 where Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian go off the grid and work together. Nicky and Bourne have had no contact since Ultimatum. It’s ridiculous and it becomes unbelievable because the CIA couldn’t possibly be that stupid. Another problem with the film is that Bourne is entering superhero levels of resilience. In the previous films, he actually got hurt, which made the films feel all the more real, but in this one, there’s no way he survives half of the scrapes he gets into in real life. Again, it borders on the unbelievable. Honestly, I think part of the problem with the story is due to the lack of involvement of Tony Gilroy, who wrote all the other Bourne films, including Legacy.
All that being said, it is great to see Damon back in the saddle as Bourne. He absolutely owns this role and it is hard to imagine anyone else playing it if Universal decides to reboot. I wouldn’t mind seeing him play Bourne again, just as long as they get a better script. That’s why this one is so disappointing, though, Greengrass and Damon always said they’d only come back if they had a stellar story to tell and this is what we got—a rehash of the previous two films. I liked Vikander as Lee, but her character is woefully underwritten. She’s supposed to be mysterious, but you never find out what her game is until the end of the film and her reasons for doing what she does are pedestrian at best. Jones is just another old man who has reason for Bourne to be dead and that’s about it. There’s nothing about his role or performance that sticks out from any of the other old men that have wanted Bourne dead in the past. Cassel is good in his role, but like Damon, he has taken some kind of invincibility potion. Also, his reason for wanting Bourne dead was good enough to create a rivalry between the two, but Greengrass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Rouse, just can’t leave well enough alone and they add more coincidence to a screenplay already weighed down by all the contrivances.
Overall, Jason Bourne is a mediocre film at best. The Bourne films peaked with The Bourne Supremacy. Ultimatum was a good capper to the initial trilogy, but it amounted to basically the same story as Supremacy. While killing Marie (Franka Potente) off in the second film was ballsy, it left Bourne with nothing left to lose. So, after he tried to burn it all down in Supremacy, he moved on, looking for the next mastermind to blame and Jason Bourne is no different in that regard. Greengrass takes what could have been an interesting story and boiled it down to a handful of action set pieces and a lot of contrivances. A real disappointment in what has already been a fairly disappointing summer.