Directed by: Paul Greengrass.
Written by: Paul Greengrass & Christopher Rouse based on the characters created by Robert Ludlum.
Starring: Matt Damon (Jason Bourne), Tommy Lee Jones (CIA Director Robert Dewey), Alicia Vikander (Heather Lee), Vincent Cassel (Asset), Julia Stiles (Nicky Parsons), Riz Ahmed (Aaron Kalloor), Ato Essandoh (Craig Jeffers), Scott Shepherd (Director NI Edwin Russell), Bill Camp (Malcolm Smith), Vinzenz Kiefer (Christian Dassault), Stephen Kunken (Baumen), Gregg Henry (Richard Webb).
I’ve been thinking a lot about two interviews Matt Damon has given in the two days since I saw Jason Bourne. The first, around the time of 2007s The Bourne Ultimatum, was that if he returned for a fourth Bourne movie, they’d name it The Bourne Redundancy, because both he and director Paul Greengrass (who directed the second and third Bourne movies) thought the story of Jason Bourne was done. The second interview, given just recently, had Damon – like many before him – bemoaning the death of the mid-budget movie, that he said used to be his bread and butter. I cannot help but think that those movies becoming rarer in the last decade led directly to both Greengrass and Damon returning to the story of Jason Bourne after nine year away. The studios love franchises, and although The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner playing a different character in the same universe (and not directed by Greengrass) did okay at the box office, it wasn’t anywhere near the hit – or as loved – as Damon’s stint as Bourne. With Damon’s bread and butter movies becoming harder to make – not just for him, but probably for Greengrass as well, another Bourne movie probably seemed like a good idea.
Jason Bourne isn’t a bad movie, per se – it just seems like a movie without a real reason to exist. The best sequels feel like they are necessary extensions of the films that came before them. Jason Bourne seems like the type of film where it was decided they wanted to make another film in the franchise, and had to come up with a story to justify it. The film is basically a retread of the previous films, expanding the conspiracy theories that were revealed in the previous trilogy in ways that stretch credibility. It somewhat works because the big bad guy is the CIA Director, played by Tommy Lee Jones, one of those actors who is good regardless of how silly the story becomes, and because the film introduces a new character – played by Alicia Vikander, a CIA computer analyst, who at first seems like a replacement for Julia Stiles (also back) – but is perhaps something more sinister. Vikander is fine in the film – her accent is weird (seriously, where the hell is she supposed to be from) – but I also like weird, unplaceable accents in movies.
But for Greengrass and Damon, it seems like they are both just going through the motions. Greengrass is usually the only director working that can make the shaky, handheld camera and rapid fire editing action sequences work – he’s the exception that proves the rule that directors shouldn’t use this style in action sequences. For the most part, that’s true here as well – although there are times when the action verges on the incoherent, and he overuses the handheld look in some none action sequences (like a weird one, where a computer genius, played by the talented Riz Ahmed – who is wasted by the way – is giving a speech, and the camera never settles down). Damon has decided to make Jason Bourne even quieter and more unreadable than ever before – he’s pissed, but there is also a lot of chatter from Vikander that perhaps he just wants to come back in. You’d get none of that from Damon – you don’t get a lot of anything actually. To give Damon some credit, he is still a fascinating screen presence, even when he’s doing nothing.
This has been a summer in which unnecessary sequels and reboots have dominated the box office, without really generating all that much passion from either critics or audiences. Everything seems to have just a little bit less money than expected. I cannot help but think that it’s because for the most part, the films have been mediocre. Sure, a lot of the films are entertaining in fits and starts, and for the most part are not a bad way to spend an evening at the movies. But the films have also all been fairly forgettable. Jason Bourne is like that as well. If you saw the other Bourne movies, then you’ve already seen everything in this new film, done better.