The Bourne Redundancy
I’ve been working overtime on a project at work and needed a break, so I decided to visit the local megaplex and check out the new Jason Bourne film. Sort of a semi-reboot after an attempt at a focus change in The Bourne Legacy (why call it a Jason Bourne film if there is no Bourne to film. The current crew seems to The new film is an interesting mish mash of plotlines from the original novel, the previous films and seemingly whatever else the production company had lying around.
The franchise has evolved so far beyond the original novels that the only things recognizable are the name Jason Bourne and the sinister Project Treadstone that created him. The plot has evolved from cold war cat and mouse games between the KGB and CIAs respective proxies to a post 9-11 panopticon super surveillance state in the west. The mighty Russian intelligence agencies are not even mentioned and terrorists like the original Jackal in the novels are absent as well.
The problem with putting all of your literary eggs in this particular basket is that it has been done so many times before. From the Sneakers “no more secrets” super decrypter in the ’90s film, to modern productions like the excellent Person of Interest and the recent Bond and Mission Impossible franchises.
This makes Bourne’s plot seem like an also ran right out of the gate. This issue combined with the laughable lack of realism regarding surveillance, computer hacking and computers in general are my main issues with the film. Seriously, this one makes Goldeneye seem like a computer science class! If I started in on the errors I could probably fill another post. Fortunately the good people at Ars Technica have done that for me.
On the plus side there are some decent performances and the film never really drags after a slow ’90s cybercrime opening, if anything it could have used a few more slow scenes to decompress. After the first 15 minutes, the entire run time is punctuated by frenzied chases, tense confrontations and bone crushing fight scenes, at times a sensory overload of Michael Bay proportions. The cinematography and lighting, while good suffer from a bad case of shaken camera syndrome, especially during fight scenes.
The performances are decent to excellent, Matt Damon is his usual 5’10” block of vanilla ice cream; stoic, nonthreatening and blandly likeable as human weapon Jason Bourne.
Tommy Lee Jones puts in his usual good performance as the lizard like and menacing CIA director hunting Bourne.
Indie darling Alicia Vikander is decent, but overshadowed by Jones who she shares most of her scenes with.
Vincent Cassel seems wasted as the assassin stalking Bourne, despite attempts to connect his backstory to Bourne’s he just comes off as a generic hitman.
While the action sequences suffer from shaken camera syndrome, they are well choreographed, which is good because they take up a significant part of the film. The final car chase is a distinct standout, excellent pacing and an interesting mismatch as Bourne chases a monstrous armored police tactical truck that makes his pursuing charger look like a hotwheels toy. The collisions have nicely visceral feel to them, something missing from most modern films. The two vehicles blaze a path of destruction through some of the nicer parts of Las Vegas in a climactic showdown. Honestly, this is one of the best chase scenes I’ve seen in years and nicely snaps the film out of it’s blandness. I just wish there were a few more scenes like this.
Verdict 2.5 Gavels out of 5 Decent but not stellar summer blockbuster fare, bland and by the books spy novel plot coupled with massive action movie set pieces. Redeemed by good performances and a spectacular chase scene.