I have a love/hate feeling for The Bourne Identity. It’s the film that brought the spy genre into the modern age and forced everyone else, even James Bond, to follow suit. Rather than suave agents with silly gadgets, we now have at least somewhat realistic portrayals of spy networks, agents in less than romantic locations, and technology which actually exists outside of cartoons. On the other hand, it also brought us the style of camerawork which I’ve railed against in a few of my other reviews which involves shooting action scenes with extreme close-ups on shaky hand held cameras and using laser quick editing. It was probably an honest stylistic choice in The Bourne Identity, but it is now used as a crutch to hide he failings of actors, directors, and cinematographers who can’t quite do what the script calls for.
We now have the fifth movie in the Bourne series, and the fourth starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, with the way too on-the-nose titled Jason Bourne. In it we have Bourne coming out of hiding and taking on his former bosses in the CIA when Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, gets her hand on government secrets she wants to put onto the internet ala Edward Snowden. Tommy Lee Jones as Robert Dewey and Alcia Vikander as Heather Lee try to stop Bourne and Parsons before they can reveal even more government secrets while also trying to hammer out a deal with billionaire tech guru Aaron Kalloor played by Riz Ahmed which would allow the CIA to use his newest app to spy on most everyone in the world all the time. Things are complicated even more when the operative Dewey calls in to take out Bourne, played by Vincent Cassel, is someone who had his identity compromised by Bourne in his last mission, and now wants revenge for his capture and years of torture resulting from this.
The plot of Jason Bourne, while not very focused, is the best part of the film. It’s nice seeing a storyline in which not every character is focused on the same goal. Bourne has one goal, Parons another, and Dewey and Lee yet another and another and so on. While it does make for some occasionally disjointed story telling, overall it manages to work and it’s nice to see realistic character motivations in a film whenever possible.
The rest of Jason Bourne, however, is a constant series of missteps. Tommy Lee Jones gives the best performance here, though Damon does a fine job given the fact that he communicates almost entirely with grunts and fisticuffs. Viakander shows little of the talent that got her an Oscar giving a rather dull performance and her attempt at an American accent is so bad it is basically her normal accent with long drawn out “r” sounds. No one else in the cast is particularly stand out in any way, good or bad.
The camera work I mentioned earlier does take an unfortunate return here. While it is expected as it’s a staple of the Bourne films, I admit to hoping it had finally worn out its usefulness and they’d experiment with new visual styles. As it stands, even the most over the top action scenes end up being dull when you can’t focus on what’s happening, and, while most of the action retains it’s trademark realism, a handful of these scenes go way over the top, particularly for a Bourne film.
Jason Bourne is a study in absolute mediocrity. It’s a film about characters making bad decision after bad decision to the point where you wonder if they realize what profession they are actually in, where dialogue is rote, acting is routine, and the cinematography is either by-the-book or annoying. It’s not a bad movie, per se, it’s not enough fun to be, it’s merely dull and poorly thought out by everyone involved in any aspect of the film. Jason Bourne keeps promising retirement at the end of every film, can he make good on that promise now, please?
Rating: 4.4 out of 10