Jason Bourne delivers same exciting performance in very familiar package (review)


Not many franchises have the astute opportunity to re-cast the lead character in one of its installments, and come back with an additional (and successful) film. Now I’m not saying that Jeremy Renner was bad in The Bourne Legacy, but let’s face it: he’s not Jason Bourne. The franchise has the name Bourne in it, so unless the film is about the titular character, the directors are really going for a stretch. From film franchises such as 300 to the ’90s Speed films, to even the…ahem…interesting…franchise of Transformers, making the swap isn’t something that tends to bode well for moviegoers, and usually results in poor results at the box office. After 4 years, however, director Paul Greengrass returns to the franchise that he helped fashion, departing before Legacy, and has brought Bourne back to the forefront of the silver screen in the latest installment, Jason Bourne.


It’s been 10 years since Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. Hoping to draw him out of the shadows, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) to find him. Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is also looking for him. As she begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling a sinister network that utilizes terror and technology to maintain unchecked power.

The film, in its entirety, delivers on all levels. The action never lets up, as each scene is filled with suspense and espionage, amped up with fight sequences that many fans have come to expect – and yet still be wowed – from the franchise. The fluidity of the film is seamless, as although the physical action may cease, the intensity of the situation seem always to have a sense of urgency. I love how the franchise never allows each film to fall too deeply into the logistics of how government agencies work, and yet at the end of each film, I feel like I’ve seen the skeletons in the closets of each of those organizations. Utilizing the premise that “just enough will make them want more” pays off at the end of the previous films, and certainly so in this film. The film creates a world with agencies that mirror issues in our day-to-day society, and I absolutely fell in love with the sub-plot of this film: a giant Facebook-like social network called Deep Dream is about to launch a new operating system that boasts security like no other, but underneath the table, the government are already making deals with the company to create backdoors to these programs, “for national security purposes.” Uniquely enough, DeepDream – in reality – is also a the name of a computer vision program created by Google to create dreamlike hallucinogenic appearances in deliberately over-processed images. Weird, huh?

Matt Damon returns to the role that set him a part from being the side man in any film, and showed that he could lead a solid action film. Not only does he return, but he brings a seasoned Jason Bourne to the screen, one who has seem some stuff. The man that you see in the film has gone through psychological battles, as well as physical ones, and is at a point where he just wants to exist without being on the run. While doing their press rounds  for the film, Matt Damon told an Australian morning show, called Sunrise, that when he first started working in the Bourne films, Damon stated that he was told by the creative team that they wanted him to watch how boxers walk. Not how they fight, but how they carry themselves when they’re walking down the street, grocery shopping, standing around, things of that nature. They wanted Damon to understand the demeanor of how, even in a relaxed state, how would someone, who could kill with only their fists, act naturally in an everyday setting. I think that he Damon studied very well, because in the film, his entire demeanor is that of someone who is walking powerhouse. He’s not extremely fit, or well cut, but with the size of his stature, and the way he carries himself, anyone would believe that he could actually knock someone out with one punch, easily.


Another great role in the film that never ceases to amuse and entertain me was Tommy Lee Jones. I don’t know how he continues to do it, but in just about every role Jones is in, he always carries his character well, with his always available Jones charisma. Jones plays Director Dewey, the antagonist in the film, who is bent on killing Bourne before he releases all the information on all the covert operations that were hacked and downloaded, and are now in Bourne’s possession. Even in moments where villains are meant to be loathed and despised, Jones keeps the action moving, and the quips flowing, as he tends to steal every scene that he is in. Alongside Jones is the beautiful Alicia Vikander, showing off her espionage skills she acquired from last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vikander is placed in the very familiar role of agent at CIA who begins to question the motives of the higher-ups, and chooses to help Bourne rather than capture him. Although not unique, Vikander still gives her all in the role, and really shines in the moments that step out of the routine we’re used to.


From a technical standpoint, the film never fails fans. If you are a long time fan of the franchise, then you’ll right away find all the beautiful nuggets that Paul Greengrass delicately places throughout the film. One of those great moments actually occurs right away, even before the film gets going, where you hear a soft melody being played, and a small but distant voice-over say,”I know who I am.” Fans of the franchise will instantaneously recognize the same melody that was played in the first Bourne film, when we find Bourne floating face down in the water. This moment, among many others, will definitely give fan service to those who have enjoyed every one of the films. Another great technical aspect of the film was the choreography. More than most, a lot of fight sequences that we’ve seen in film have usually been over-stylized, creating more of a dance than a fight scene. Lately, however, we have been fortunate enough to see films and TV shows step away from the norm, and create a choreographed fight scene that blows fans away. One that comes to mind immediately was the first major fight sequence in the Netflix series, Daredevil. Much like these kind of scenes, Jason Bourne does not disappoint, and what we get in the film are raw and simplistic fight sequences that are incredible! The scenes are not overwhelmed by the music, or by the stunt work, but are simply well conceived brawls. Damon and Vincent Cassel have outstanding chemistry in the film, and when you finally see their fight sequences, you know that what you are getting are the results of time and hearts invested.

Now, the film does tend to lean a bit on the formulaic side, however. The main story seems to mirror several of the other films in the franchise: a high ranking individual in the government is trying to hide the shady things that he and his program are doing, all the while targeting the renegade, Jason Bourne, trying to eliminate him, who just happens to be helped by someone in the agency who is gradually discovering the truth of the whole situation. If this sounds like it’s been done before, congratulations. You aren’t wrong. This plot device is rampant among espionage and renegade mercenary films, and has been overly used to the fullest extent. The film hits all those familiar bumps and corners, and leads fans on a wild ride that we’ve ridden before, many times.


Jason Bourne, overall, is still a good work of espionage cinema. Matt Damon and Tommy Lee Jones shine throughout the film, giving solid performances in their roles, and creating memorable moments for the fans. The film, although familiar, will still have you on the edge of your seat, and will keep you guessing, all the way up until the end. No doubt that the work put into the film, as well as the heart and soul, translates well on screen. Paul Greengrass creates a film that fits in the Bourne universe, and gives homage to ’70s British spy TV shows such as The Sandbaggers or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, harnessing a sense of nostalgia throughout each and every scene. Yes, each the story was familiar, but the journey getting there is definitely something worth remembering.

Jason Bourne, directed by Paul Greengrass, and starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassel, debuts in theaters this Friday.

Rating: 3 1/2 atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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