Looking at the mediocre reviews for Jason Bourne, you have to think perhaps this entry into the series is handicapped somewhat by the success of its predecessors. Forgetting the Jeremy Renner 'project', the four Bourne movies Matt Damon starred in are scored as follows on Rotten Tomatoes; 83%, 81%, 93% and a clear drop to 56% for the most recent effort.
Personally, having seen it twice, I think this disparity is a little unfair. I'd grade Jason Bourne (2016) at around 75%, not too far off the three Bournes that came before it (again, dropping poor old Jerry R into the waste basket).
Sure, there are a few aspects that drop the score a little from the 80s-plus, but there is also a lot to be excited about within.
To duly note the drawbacks.
On pure look-and-feel it's immediately recognizable this isn't Identity, Supremacy or even Ultimatum. Identity and Supremacy reveled in small details, travel and even the details of human emotions, such as romance. Ultimatum had more of a Global feel about it and I suspect the most recent entry into the series is doubling down on this aspect further. Bourne has done extremely well on a Global scale, and I would imagine this has the producers grinning from ear to ear, and laughing all the way to the bank, too. Remember, it took some time for Identity to become popular, I think they took no chances here and stripped out some nuance in order to land a wider audience from the get-go.
The dialog is a little clunky also, it has to be admitted. This is not a Coen brothers movie, that much is sure. Again I think this suggests the producers wanted this Bourne to be as popular in say, Germany, as it is in Italy, Turkey and China. There were three or four moments where the characters deliberately repeated themselves to really nuke a point home to the audience. Depending on your level of frustration with Globalization and Hollywood movies, that point could prove a stickler for you.
One somewhat unusual complaint, if you've seen it, did you notice how Bourne has apparently drawn a line in the sands of style and reverted back to outfits that would have been at home in 70s adaptations of the series? The Bourne movies are all about progress, in technology, political thinking and spy-craft. They have also always been pretty slick and stylish. This Bourne, however, is very much your Dad's Bourne, a thick, heavy looking leather jacket, jeans any 57 year old would feel comfortable in and a haircut that would be at home in 1950s America. The jacket in particular is an odd choice. I would like to know the wardrobe team's reasoning there. A heavy leather jacket in Greece on a hot summer's night? That doesn't seem wildly functional to me.
Whatever happened to this Bourne, the stylish one?
Those relatively minor complaints out of the way, on to the good stuff.
First, the audacious set pieces, of which there are several. You won't find any spoilers here, suffice to say this Bourne is perhaps the most ambitious in terms of pure, raw action of all the entries to date. The opening, sprawling, set piece in Greece, during what presumably was meant to be an anti-austerity riot, is so good it could double as a news broadcast on the turmoil in Greece. The director, Paul Greengrass, is brilliant at these set piece action segments and he really shows of his skills in Bourne, be it Greece, Germany, England or, finally, in Las Vegas. Bourne is, above all else, an astonishingly raw action movie.
There is nuance to be found, among the action shots. The second time I saw it I caught sight of Bourne showing off his light fingers, quick hands, as he tooled up for a mission. Very gentle and yet super detailed stuff, something you might miss at first glance. There's plenty of detail like that, and the movie has a very contemporary feel, with references to Edward Snowden and Facebook (called 'Deep Dream' in this case).
The central performances are what sets Bourne apart from any recent action rival. Matt Damon delivers as always, even if he has less dialog than ever before. He probably utters about 37 words throughout the entire flick, but he pulls off the physical side of things in robust manner, almost as if someone dared him to make a Bourne movie in his later forties.
Tommy Lee Jones is very good, as you would expect. His semi defeated, worn down and World weary CIA director is very grounding among all the whizz bangs. His underling is played by Alicia Vikander and this is a typical Bourne franchise piece of casting. A good actress pulling off a stylish outing of a clever, balanced and well drawn out character. We just don't get that in movies these days, particularly not in action movies largely aimed at men. Think about it. They could quite easily have lined up one of the usual lipstick actresses for this role, and perhaps added a few dollars to the final take. Instead they went with craft, and, the movie is obviously better for it.
Finally, I really enjoyed British actor Riz Ahmed's turn as the creator and CEO of 'Deep Dream', clearly 'Facebook' in this story. He's perfect for the role and brings a nice energy to same.
I think it's clearly a good sign when you see a movie twice and it's better the second time. The little nuances and attention to detail really shine. Jason Bourne, the movie, manages to stay edgy, relevant and still throws around a few punches, easily keeping one or two more bullets in the chamber. If anything, I left this one thinking, we're setup nicely for a good final chapter. Here's hoping Damon and Greengrass keep their grasp on the franchise steering wheel, as long as they do, we're in good hands.
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