‘Jason Bourne’: the 2000’s Franchise Repeats Itself to Great Middleground

Jason Bourne stars Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones and is directed by Paul Greengrass.

Bourne is back, and with the actor/director duo that brought the series to great heights in the 2000s. Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass only agreed to come back to the franchise if the other returned with them. Jason Bourne is the resulting movie and it is a solid addition to the franchise.

The Bourne Trilogy has a legacy of being a series of spy movies filled with gripping and grounded action sequences, shot with the technique known as shaky cam. Unlike other films with less talented directors behind the camera (Michael Bay and Transformers, perhaps), Greengrass shot the Bourne sequels with this technique to highlight the speed at which mortal humans are running and fighting. The shaky quality of the film draws you in and disorientates the viewer, making us a bystander to a face-off between people more talented than us at kicking ass. Greengrass does this very carefully by making sure we don’t lose our way through the set pieces. He will slot in quick shots of objects amidst the chaos of the shaky-cam to subtly inform the audience to the important parts of the scene. This does not always work, and this brings me back to the movie in question, Jason Bourne.

Greengrass continues to utilise this shooting technique for this sequel and it may not work for everyone. For instance, I went and saw this movie with a friend of mine who had not seen the Bourne movies for a few years and when the credits began to roll, he immediately turned to me and said “Well, that last fight scene was crap”. Use this as a cautionary tale, because he had forgotten just how crazy the shooting can get and because I was prepared for it, I followed the scene a bit more than him. But, that does not say much about the direction of the movie if not everyone can understand the action on screen. The cuts per minute during action sequences, especially in the third act of the film, are insanely high and can get quite disorientating, which is not the best for a blockbuster action film.

The trailers for this film have been rather vague about the plot of this film, and I’ll follow that trend by merely saying that it revolves around Jason Bourne attempting to piece together more pieces from his past while on the run from the CIA. Now, this could be the plot of any Bourne movie, which gels with the series and this movie starts with a great chase sequence in the middle of a violent riot. The Bourne formula is back and in full swing as Jason Bourne quickly moves through crowds of people as back in America, a room full of CIA agents look at monitors and shout, trying to track him down. This leads to an impressive motorcycle chase through the riot and when the sequence is over, you are definitely left wanting more. While this move does follow through on this desire, it does so with slightly diminishing returns.

The story of Jason Bourne is not as interesting as the original trilogy, especially as it feels like the story had been nicely wrapped up and they are simply introducing out-of-nowhere bits of information because Universal wanted another addition. I began tuning out of some of the action sequences because they kept going back to the well of Bourne in a crowd while CIA guys look for him on the streets and in a room. Matt Damon is awesome as Bourne, giving zero f**ks and silently doing what needs to be done. Alicia Vikander is a great addition to the roster, yet I felt she was underutilised as the ‘computery’ CIA agent tasked with finding Jason Bourne. Tommy Lee Jones is the perfect guy to fill the ‘white boss man’ role of this film, as the director of the CIA. While these performances are solid, the action movie around them is not all that compelling.

Jason Bourne is by no means a bad film. It has some terrific chase sequences and some exciting fight scenes that are on par with the first three films. Yet, it is nowhere near as interesting as the trilogy that cemented the series as a must watch for action aficionados. It is the weakest of the Matt Damon Bourne films and resembles more of a modern paint-by-numbers action movie than the previous instalments in the franchise. The awesome grounded set pieces that are a staple of the series are stretched to new heights, sometimes placing their toe into the unbelievable territory, but the repetition of the Bourne formula drags these down to a lower calibre. Like any good sequel, I wished Jason Bourne would stick to what made the franchise great while injecting something new to the franchise. While this movie has some solid points to make about our privacy from the government, the message may get lost if your mind begins to wander while watching similar scenarios repeat themselves during the two hour movie.

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