Review: 'Jason Bourne' Returns Without Creativity, Excitement or Cool

July 29, 2016

Jason Bourne Review

At least Matt Damon is back, right? That may be a common sentiment from anyone who followed along with the Bourne franchise. The first trilogy of films – The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – make up an impressively intense series of espionage thrillers with Damon's eponymous character riding high in the lead seat. With The Bourne Legacy, Damon chose not to return, Jeremy Renner took his place, and the stale, lackluster adventure that time around made it seem like the franchise's shining moments were long behind it. It's now 14 years since the initial entry, and though Jason Bourne sees Damon returning for his fourth outing as the rogue super-spy the bloom hasn't quite grown back on the rose leaving us with a dulled, run-of-the-mill version of a series that once actually brushed against the limits of cool cinema.

You don't have to be following closely with the series to know where Jason Bourne finds himself at the beginning of this film. He's completely off the grid spending his days in Greece wiping the floor with opponents in underground fighting rings and generally coping with incessant nightmares and PTSD. It's a luxurious retirement for anyone who spent their better years trekking the globe and taking out nefarious, foreign threats with excessive force. But those days of knocking stooges cold with one punch are about to come to an end for Bourne.

Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), the former CIA tech who went underground to help Bourne escape appearing in all three of the original films, has just hacked into the database at Langley, and she's come away with all the information Bourne needs about Treadstone, the program with which he was once involved. Naturally, the CIA notices the hack, begins tracking Parsons' movements towards Bourne, and unleashes a ruthless agent (Vincent Cassel) to take him out once and for all. If you have any problems keeping track of it all just take a look at the four, previous films for reference at any time – they'll help you catch up.

Jason Bourne Review

That's the chief concern going into Jason Bourne. The franchise, for all of its freshness as far as spy films go, for all of its efficiency when it comes to story progression and action, has a very tried and true structure that each film seems to follow to the letter. As if there were a checklist of requirements to make a Bourne film, screenwriters Christopher Rouse and Paul Greengrass, both first-time writers for this franchise, don't deviate from the familiar plan of action one bit leaving the audience with an endless barrage of computer monitors, foreign cities, and serious faces.

Bourne himself has nothing different to do from his previous adventures around the world, and his never-ending quest for information about his past seems to keep rolling around again and again. It wouldn't be such a problem if there were any, fresh ideas regarding either side of the morality coin. The CIA is still run by old, white men in suits who dispatch assets and give kill orders at the drop of a hat. This time around the powers in charge are personified by Tommy Lee Jones with Alicia Vikander playing the agent in charge of cyberterrorism who may represent the only gray-area character in the film. Neither character is written with any depth nor originality, though, and you sit back waiting for the film to progress to the precise points where you know it's headed.

You do the same with the lead character, too, you're impatience with Bourne growing every time you're forced to watch him pensively stare off into the distance. Bourne appears to only have two speeds this time around, and, unfortunately, neither are adequately exciting or suitably memorable. Instead we're left with the general brooding we've encountered in three, previous film and an utter lack of intensity. It's not just that Matt Damon looks bored here. Bourne himself looks bored half the time to the point you expect him to drop an "I'm too old for this shit" line or some variation.

Jason Bourne Review

It's even more of a shame knowing Greengrass, whose direction of Supremacy and Ultimatum made them some of the most genuinely suspenseful actioners of this century, is back at the helm. For the most part, the direction in Jason Bourne and the action found within are on par with what you'd expect. Yes, the director's perpetual movement of the camera makes the action proceedings all the more difficult to follow, but it's never a confusing image. The director has a keen eye for filming chase sequences, and a climactic chase through the bright streets of Las Vegas almost reaches the action heights established elsewhere in the series. What that sequence provides is too little and too late, though.

It doesn't help matters that Christopher Rouse, Greengrass' co-writer here, takes on the role of editor, as well, a task he's had on all of Greengrass' films since Supremacy. The editing is frantic, often frustratingly so, and no amount of speed in Rouse's cutting can deliver the necessary momentum needed for a movie like Jason Bourne to succeed in execution.

None of the acting delivers anything to impress, either. Matt Damon sleepwalks through Bourne's internal conflicts, and Jones and Vikander take on thankless roles with blasé performances. Vincent Cassel fills the international-star-playing-a-sadistic-hitman prerequisite with a total lack of edge. Riz Ahmed rounds out the supporting cast as the founder of Deep Dream, a social networking tool the CIA may or may not be using to spy on citizens, and his performance is nearly as dull as that entire subplot.

Save for the handful of effective chases Greengrass pulls out there isn't much that doesn't come across as dull or tired in Jason Bourne. With Damon returning to the role that made him an international star you would expect a film that delivers the promised goods. You would think his, as well as Greengrass' return, to the Bourne franchise would mark a new beginning for a series that was once held in such high regard for action fans. Instead the film offers little more than bland, familiar structuring peppered with unremarkable action beats, the last thing you would expect from this team. Jason Bourne isn't the revitalization anyone had hoped for this franchise, and you begin to wonder if the character might've been best left out in the cold.

Jeremy's Rating: 2 out of 5
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk

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I was highly enthusiastic when they announced that Matt Damon was returning to the franchise, along with his favorite director Greenglass. Especially after the horrible Legacy. Then, I watched the trailer, and was left bewildered. I knew it will never catch up the amazing trilogy that redefined the genre, but was still hoping that it would be good enough to be a memorable sequel that will maybe grow on me on repeated watching. Now, I am reading reviews here and there that contradicts my hope on this franchise. Maybe it is time to leave the table. there is no food left.

tarek on Jul 29, 2016


You are right my dear friend. This will not hold me from seeing it in the movies. I'll make my own opinion on it with a bucket of pop corn. ;D

tarek on Jul 29, 2016


I'll watch it this coming Tuesday ( tickets are cheaper), and will give you a quick review.

tarek on Jul 29, 2016


I've noticed this "collective reviewing" trend myself, it's an interesting subject. In these days with all the technology we have, we get instantaneous access to other people's opinions through twitter, facebook and the like. People might see early buzz/opinions about films and some of it will get stuck in the back of their minds and influence their own opinions. They probably don't even realize it themselves. Of course, this doesn't affect everyone, but I think a large part of reviewers who are very active on social media will get influenced unknowingly. I'm pretty sure consensuses would be different on many films if reviewers were forced to stay away from the internet/social media until they had published their reviews. Now I'm obviously not saying this should happen, but it could be a fun experiment..

Efterklang on Jul 29, 2016


wait! i am 50! 🙂

ari smulders on Jul 29, 2016


Nah, I'm a guy (27), that's Adèle Exarchopoulos in my picture. Btw, another thing to note is that the average guy's opinion often differ from opinions of reviewers, you see it all the time on sites like imdb and rotten tomatoes in the ratings. Is it because they don't "hang" in the same (social media) circles as them, or is it just because they might not have the same knowledge of movies? Who knows.. It could just be that most people are less critical than reviewers. Anyways, it's good that people form their own opinions. Thanks for your reply.

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


So to enjoy a movie you need to be knowledgeable in movies? Hummm...No sure about that.

tarek on Jul 30, 2016


Eh, if that's what you took from what I wrote, you need to read it again.

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


Forgive my weak understanding. So, what did you mean by " or is it just because they might not have the same knowledge of movies?"

tarek on Jul 30, 2016


Hey Bo. Always a pleasure to read you. What I meant is: I don't need to know about cinema history, filmmaking techniques or post production process to enjoy a movie, as a movie is in first place a visual and emotional experience. Just like I don't need to be a musician or to know how to read a partition to enjoy Bohemian Rhapsody. So, I think this "Your opinion on a movie doesn't matter, unless you've proved yourself (read you've made a movie, you wrote a screenplay or you graduated in film industry techniques" is somewhat fallacious and wrong. I love music, but I can barely play guitar. I love movies, but I've never made a fanmade movie or written an essay on filmmaking. Still, I can spot a good music or a good movie when I see one. What really differentiate a film critic from an average moviegoer is the eloquence. A good film critic can express with words what other people liked or disliked, with regard to his own sensitivity of course, as each one of us watch movies through his own prism. There is no good or bad opinion. Sometimes, as you said, film critics feel the need to contradict the general opinion, just to seem "intelligent". There is no shame to like a hotdog if it tastes good. ;D

tarek on Jul 30, 2016


Like Bo mentioned, I posed it as a question. I did NOT say or mean that your opinion doesn't matter if you haven't proved yourself, or have expert knowledge regarding cinema. However, what I did mean was that if you DO have a lot of insight and experience you will have more criteria to measure films up to. And since you have watched more films you will have more films to compare others to. Therefore, a "scholar" of film would be more critical, but their opinion wouldn't necessarily be worth more. I think the opinions of average movie watchers are just as important. I'm sorry if I'm not getting my point across well, English isn't my native language.

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


I just think she is a great actress, and since I mostly use disqus on movie related sites, why not have it as my picture 😉

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


I agree with you on that, I prefer watching movies at home. I've had that blu-ray for a couple of years though, shouldn't be very hard to get a hold of? Exarchopoulos in that movie is actually one of my favorite performances of all time. Léa Seydoux is of course also great in that movie, she is an excellent actress as well.

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


Yeah, Bullhead was great and he was great in it. I haven't seen The Drop yet though, maybe I should.

Efterklang on Jul 30, 2016


I wasn't exactly holding my breath for JASON BOURNE, but all that all the talent in this film would push it higher than a 2/5. I will still see this for Vikander and Cassel.

DAVIDPD on Jul 29, 2016


I love Bond Movies , but when i think about its bad episodes i let myself to be accept this weak sequel anyway (if it would be) ... and if it was repetitive sequel either , i think it was more strong action-thriller in comparable unconvincing fake recently movies.

Ehsan Davodi on Jul 29, 2016


Except, this ain't a bond movie. Spectre was a piece of dung by the way.

tarek on Jul 29, 2016


yup, it was bad...

ari smulders on Jul 29, 2016


Saw this coming when I first saw the trailer. Matt Damon will soon be the next Ben Affleck. While Bef Affleck will be the new Matt Damon.

ragethorn on Jul 29, 2016


Boy this year's been disappointing. The movie I most wanted to see all year long (by far) ends up being yet another cash grab. And even the new version of "Extreme Ways" sucks.

Brandon on Jul 29, 2016


Not only is 2016 the year I went to the movies fewer times than ever, I really only liked one movie. With Stranger Things on Netflix, it's clear (even tho ST steals from everyone but it does it so well) that the more interesting stuff is happening on TV these days.

Sascha Dikiciyan on Jul 31, 2016


The lack of originality angle doesn't make sense anymore. More so when the same persons using this argument didn't complain about, for example, The Force Awakens. How come some movies are hailed for the copying and repetition and others buried for the same reasons... damn....

Javier JQ Quetzalcóatl on Jul 29, 2016


It was completely on par with the other Matt Damon Bourne's. I don't understand how they're incredible and this was lackluster?

rickvanr on Jul 30, 2016


Well.........I didn't read the review the moment I saw that it written by Jeremy 'hack it to pieces to be a sensationalist' Kirk.

Steven on Jul 30, 2016


*Comment contains spoilers of course* I was pumped for it being I enjoy the series- and... I loved it! It didn't disappoint and was probably my fav of the series thus far. The whole Vegas car chase / fight scene at the end was too cool and I loved all the stuff about his father revealed. Vincent Cassel's character was great. Also surprisingly enjoyed Alicia Vikander's role (wonder if she'll return for the next movie). Really enjoyed Tommy Lee's role (tho disturbing to see him so fragile looking). What I didn't like?... The whole sub-plot w/ the sorta Steve Jobs-esque character. It was clunky & it felt like it that story itself could've been a whole entire movie on its own. *I saw it in 4D & it was a very cool experience so- when someone in the movie was driving, the chair would move or if there was water, water would spurt out! or during fight scenes, the chair would kind jab you! Recommend seeing it 4D!*

Ardis on Jul 30, 2016


This movie was really good...I didnt even read the review

Trey on Jul 31, 2016


I didn't see anything wrong with it. It's, at the very least, as good as the last two Damon was in, but none of them are as good as the first one. Identity is the best.

Bl00dwerK on Jul 31, 2016


I wasn't feeling it so much. Might need to see it again, but it was a bit boring.

Carpola on Aug 1, 2016


It felt to me like it was only somewhat about Bourne, and that wasn't so bad I think. The second vehicle chase was a bit too Michael Bay like I think. The first one was great. I saw one small tip of the hat to 'Legacy' which I thought was a nice thing to do without following it up in any way.

Goldman2016 on Aug 3, 2016


I thought the movie was good, sure, it didn't provide the excitment of Bourne Supremacy or Bourne Ultimatum, but it was better than Bourne Legacy and on par with The Bourne Identity. Yeah, Jason Bourne is older and it feels that he isn't as fresh as in the previous movies, but I think Matt Damon gave a performance on par with the movie, which was good. The movie could've been better, the writing could've been a bit more complex, and the actors could've given better performances, the action scenes are good, but I think they should've put more action scenes in a Bourne movie, or the action scenes shoul've been longer. Overall, for me it was a good experience, I rate it 7/10

Alex Dawson on Nov 4, 2016

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