|Film Review In a time heavily saturated with reboots and remakes (and reboots of remakes and sequels to reboots), there’s something warm and comforting about a long belated sequel from a strong franchise coming to the big screen. It’s been 9 years since we last saw Matt Damon take up the mantle as ex-assassin Jason Bourne. The Bourne Ultimatum served to wrap up Bourne’s search for his identity, and with Matt Damon’s hesitation to ever return to the franchise again, it seemed like we had seen the last of his character.
However, Damon’s exit wasn’t going to stop Universal Studios from cashing in on the popularity of his character. In 2012, a fourth film released, titled The Bourne Legacy, but it centered around a new operative named Aaron Cross, and it took place at the same time as the events of Ultimatum were unfolding for Jason. It was a decent movie on its own, but it failed to make the same impact, and ultimately felt like a Jason Bourne rip-off without the titular character. But apparently, the stars have all aligned for Damon and director Paul Greengrass to return to bring Jason back once again… And it’s quite a ride.
The latest entry, simply titled Jason Bourne, builds onto Bourne’s past in rather unexpected–and pretty contrived–ways. It actually brought to mind the current James Bond revival where the story connects in each film, whether it feels natural or not. It’s interesting to see where Jason is at 9 years after going back on the run, and it’s kind of sad to see him reduced to street fighting for money. But once former CIA agent Nicky Parsons – who we last saw align herself with Bourne in Ultimatum – hacks into the CIA system to steal the agency’s secrets, she supposedly learns about secrets of Bourne’s past that hadn’t been common knowledge before. She meets up with Jason in Greece while its people are rioting in the streets and the two accidentally end up in the CIA’s sights yet again. An asset gets deployed to track them down and Jason is thrown right back into the chase.
I revisited the original trilogy before watching the new one (I’ve seen them many times, but it always serves a new film to see their predecessors again right before seeing a new entry), and I was surprised to find the Greece riot sequence less captivating than it intended to be. Because there was so much chaos already on the street, the tension Greengrass was trying to build with the CIA attempting to track Bourne and Parsons through the crowd felt oddly aimless. But once they were on the run, it was as if the film had really found its footing. The plot and overall feel of Jason Bourne is surprisingly different from the three films before it, even if some of the plot elements are glaringly similar. Part of it is because the entire CIA team featured here is new, and Damon’s Bourne spends most of the film on his own again. It’s a little more like Supremacy in that regard. It’s also surprising to discover right out of the gate that Parsons and Bourne, who had seemed to start to spark something (or re-spark?) in Ultimatum never went anywhere after the events in that film. However, given Jason’s history with Marie and having lost her after trying to start a life with her, it kind of makes sense that he wouldn’t attempt to settle down again. Aside from that story aspect, Damon does seem a lot older and weathered here–especially after getting used to seeing him so young and rather lanky in the original 2002 film nearly 15 years ago. The only downside to this is that Bourne doesn’t seem to have grown or progressed much in these past 9 years. He’s still tortured by memories and he still seems cold and disconnected. But, regardless, it’s just kind of neat to be able to follow an older Bourne who’s back on the run — even if Greengrass and Damon seem to write and play him as a little rusty in his spying ways. He makes some glaring mistakes that the audience may wonder why–or how–he would, and it makes the sharp and tactical cat-and-mouse scene at Waterloo station in Ultimatum seem like it involved a completely different Jason Bourne. But after this film gets off to a somewhat bumpy beginning, the plot unwinds and unfolds, and Bourne finds himself out to stop dirty government agents and get a little revenge in the process. And while the plot does make a lot of the same mistakes Spectre made in its unneeded attempt to connect everything, Jason Bourne still offers enough action and twisty plot to make it a thrilling film. (But whether or not that is enough to give it lasting power over time, it’s too early to tell. The previous three films still hold up well today. This one may just be the weakest entry of the Damon Bourne films, but it also may be more enjoyable than, say, Supremacy).
Since seeing him in The Fugitive, I’ve been a fan of Tommy Lee Jones’ work — especially the first Men In Black film. At 70 years old now, he obviously can’t really do big action roles anymore, but he plays the CIA Director role really well. At times, he seems a little bland here, unfortunately (and I don’t know if that’s his age or he just wasn’t really into the role, or he tried to play the role more reserved), but overall, he remains a great addition to Jason’s world. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Ex Machina star Alicia Vikander steps in as kind of a young gun in the CIA who has purer intentions than some of her peers, and she’s oftentimes hard to read, which makes her character interesting. Damon also reteams with his Ocean’s 12 and 13 co-star, Vincent Cassel, who plays an asset with an axe to grind with Bourne. Having an older asset up against the aging Bourne is a good fit, too, but the story he’s given is definitely the flimsiest of any asset in previous films.
The action is pretty on par with the previous films. Although Damon is older, he still can hit hard, and the film doesn’t back down too much from putting him in some pretty intense fights. The one-on-one in the finale is an especially violent and bloody one, too. But because this is the fourth film in this series, fans can expect car chases and fist fights, and you certainly get plenty of both. The finale’s havoc wreaked on Las Vegas is huge–if not a little overwhelming–but it’s as fun as any of the chases in the previous films. But Greengrass hasn’t quite learned his lesson with the shaky cam, so some fight and chase moments get lost in the choppy editing. Also, the plot heavily involves today’s technology and “Big Brother watching” type paranoia, which is interesting considering how the previous three films were dated before even the iPhone made its debut. It almost seems unusual here to see Bourne reading text messages. But bringing Bourne into this tech-savvy, social media-driven age is interesting, and it definitely changes the game up a bit.
The content is also on par with the previous films. The language is actually a little bit less, however, but still present. The MPAA rating calls for “brief strong language,” but there wasn’t any obvious use of the “F” word (so either it’s sort of hidden or it was a rating given before the final edit for theaters). Obviously, the biggest red flag to consider is violence, and there’s certainly plenty of it. Just the riot scenes alone are pretty intense (especially in our current state of turmoil in the world). One scene shows a wounded character get shot to death in the street, while some other hand-to-hand fights disguise more brutal violence with really fast cuts and camera motions. Another character is shot and falls from a building (with blood on the street), while other scenes show people taking bullets with some blood on their clothing (with various results). We also see some footage of a car bombing a couple of times with blood on a person’s face, and the final fist fight involving Bourne is quite bloody and brutal (with fingers squeezing bullet wounds to cause the other pain, etc). Overall, none of it is surprising for a Bourne film.
The fourth Damon-helmed Bourne film is a mixed bag that seems to already be polarizing audiences. The plot isn’t the strongest and some of the contrived plot points are unfortunate. Furthermore, mistakes like Bourne not being more covert at times or not suspecting software to be tracked by the CIA just seem like significant and lazy oversights. We all know he’s smart and can see and foresee things others can’t, so it seems odd when he doesn’t here. However, more forgiving audiences will be able to overlook some of the minor silliness to just be excited that Damon was willing to step into Jason’s shoes (at least) one more time. And while his return may not be as grand as it could (or should) be, it’s still a lot of fun.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/29/16)
Blu-Ray Bonus Features ReviewJason Bourne is available in a Blu-Ray combo pack, on single-disc DVD, in a 4K/Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and through the usual Digital HD providers. While I don’t have 4K disc player, the digital copy streams in 4K, so you can watch the digital stream in Ultra HD if you have the capabilities. The film definitely looked crisp in UHD. This was my second time viewing the film and I think I did enjoy it more the second go around — the expectations weren’t as high, and I knew it was a little disappointing story-wise. It may be the weakest of the Damon-helmed Bourne movies, but it’s still an enjoyable action thriller. On the Blu-Ray disc and in the iTunes Extras are the following features:Bringing Back Bourne (8:15) – The first featurette is devoted to bringing the character–and Matt Damon–back to the franchise, as well as working with director Paul Greengrass again. Everyone talks about how they decided to wait for a good enough story worth telling before making another movie. There’s also some good behind the scenes footage, along with cast and crew interviews. (1 use of “J-sus Chr-st” in a clip from the movie)
The Athens Escape (5:37) is devoted to the big motorcycle chase at the start of the movie, and how, while Damon tried to do as much as he could with the stunts, they relied on face replacement technology to sub Damon’s face in for the stuntman’s.
Bourne to Fight (18:20) – This is a longer featurette that focuses on the fighting in the movie. It starts with the bare knuckle boxing that Damon practiced doing, addressing the close quarters fighting and the underground brawling. We also learn that Damon has been training in boxing for 15 years since the first Bourne movie, and actually really enjoys it. For the underground fights, they paired Matt up with real fighters to lend some authenticity to the action. Next is the down-and-dirty fight Bourne has with the hacker where they fight around a room that has exercise weights in it. We also learn here that they often would do choreographing in the moment on set. Finally, they focus on the brutal fight at the end of the film, and how they tried to make it more like the series’ original fights, but tougher.
Las Vegas Showdown (15:00) – This is split into two separate featurettes: Convention Chaos and Shutting Down the Strip. It starts with how they took over an active casino to stage a technology conference, and how they literally filmed around the clock across all different parts of the building. They also tried to make the conference as realistic as possible by populating it with real vendors and a huge crowd of extras. It ends with a focus on the big car chase during the finale and how it was the first car chase to be filmed in Vegas. Also, when the Asset’s truck crashes through the front of a casino, it was actually the front of the Riviera, which was going to be torn down anyway. It’s cool to see how they planned and set up the various stunts seen throughout the finale.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 12/4/16)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content Sex/Nudity: None.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer’s opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer’s rating.