In terms of a summer action film, this is an enjoyable repeat. It’s got director Paul Greengrass’s patented non-stop camera technique, and it features America’s most likeable heroes, the cinematic Bourne and the real-life Matt Damon. It’s a pleasurable and gratifying recipe, one that’s both fun and ultimately forgettable.
With director Greengrass back at the help with Damon after the regrettable Tony Gilroy/Jeremy Renner attempt at a reboot in 2012 (they could have asked me about that and saved millions….), this one coulda/shoulda been the one to wrap things up. Instead, it pretty much treads water, awaiting the next entry, even if the splashing around is satisfying.
(Spoilers ahead.) Damon is solid as ever, and while a little heavier and older, has clearly spent enough hours in the gym to convince us of his abilities to fight and live. Unfortunately, the storyline is the same as ever; he’s being pursued, and his life in on the line approximately every 17 minutes. If the story had ended in some revelation that ultimately made a difference, or if things had come to a conclusion, the meandering might have taken on a deeper meaning. Instead, the whole thing ends up feeling like the “next installment” in the series that will go on until the character dies, ages out, or finds a way to disappear and be happy at the same time.
Julie Stiles as Nicky reappears, and we hope for some information that brings real light and/or romance. She brings some information, but it’s not the breakthrough we as viewers have been looking for, and then she dies. We are sorry to see her go, but since the relationship between Nicky and Bourne has never gotten that deep or interesting, the regret at her passing is minimal.
More interesting is the ever-changing presence of Vincent Cassel, that French embodiment of intensity and anger, as someone who appears to be a hireling but we discover has a close and personal vested interest in destroying Bourne. It adds the kind of twist that makes the old Western The Searchers so fascinating. In that film, the question goes from “Will they find her?” to “What is going to happen to her if they do?” Cassel, playing “The Asset,” adds that extra layer that helps bring the film to life.
Probably hired for international appeal is recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina). A talented actress with a long and successful career ahead of her, she is miscast here. She is a soft-spoken talent who plays her characters internally and deeply. Her Heather Lee is strong, forthright and direct, even edgy. Vikander is anything but as an actress; even her soft voice is difficult to understand at times. Her talent allows her to make the character her own, but it’s not a good match.
Greengrass’s style, so fresh and new with the earlier Bourne films, United 93 and Captain Phillips, needs a rest–literally. I found myself hoping for a moment of respite, a time to catch a breath, a moment to ponder. Even Jason Bourne gets the occasional moment to think and sleep. It’s a relentless style of filmmaking, and one that needs shaking up.
The fight scenes are not quite the set pieces we’ve come to expect. They seem shorter and less exciting. Oscar-winning editor Christopher Rouse either seems to have either less to work with, or is deliberately leaning down the fight scenes. In the earlier Bourne films, they were moments that helped break the intensity of the camera style with their rhythms and energy (if we didn’t get quiet moments, at least we got some relief in the form of artful and powerful fighting). The film misses those explosions of energy.
On the other hand, Tommy Lee Jones plays an intense, anger-under-the-collar, overly focused character. And…?
The series is branching out by going into side stories. This one contains government-business relationships, technology issues, privacy concerns and more inter-departmental intrigue within the government. That’s one way of enriching a franchise entry. Another perhaps more satisfying one would be to dig deeper into the human issues of identity, family betrayal and even of growing up and continued self-discovery.
With the talents at work that we find in front of and behind the camera, Jason Bourne can’t help but be a fun ride. Any future entry, however, needs to deal with the repercussions of what is brought to light in this film, and would do well to grant us some reflection and yes, some meaningful resolution.