Jason Bourne review – Damon returns for encore

Jason Bourne is more of the same old thrills

Jason Bourne isn’t a reboot or a remake. Instead, it’s more of a rerun. For fans of the Bourne saga, that’s not necessarily a new development. The franchise has always stuck fairly close to the narrative established in The Bourne Identity. Clearly the theme with Jason Bourne is the franchise ain’t broke so we’re not fixing it.

By that standard, the film is another thrilling competently made though completely redundant entry in the series.  For newcomers to the series this is a tremendous espionage action film, but it’s too much of the same thing for franchise vets.

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For all the grief it got for being the Ramsay Bolton of the franchise at least The Bourne Legacy attempted to do something different. Jason Bourne is the same movie we’ve already seen three times before with a few subtle plot variations. At the very least including Legacy’s main character Aaron Cross in the mix could have shaken things up a bit.

Still, it’s easy to get caught up in the world of Jason Bourne. Matt Damon (The Martian) makes for a charming lead.  The grey hairs add greater credence to Bourne’s status as a weary, world-traveling warrior. The fresh-faced youthful Bourne from 2002 is replaced now by a man who’s seen everything the world has to offer. Damon is still younger than Richard Chamberlain when he starred in The Bourne Identity TV special.

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Bourne ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is about to pull an Edward Snowden and release a massive amount of dirty CIA secrets when she discovers new information about Papa Bourne. That news brings Bourne, killing time as a pit fighter, out of obscurity and with a new objective.

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Naturally that doesn’t sit well with CIA head Robert Dewey (an especially gruff Tommy Lee Jones). To stop Bourne from becoming a problem, Dewey dispatches his operative (Vincent Cassel) to take him out. Opportunistic assistant Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) has an alternative measure — convincing Bourne it’s time to return to active duty.

Damon vowed not to reprise his role unless Director Paul Greengrass also returned. There’s clearly a comfort level there, but perhaps another director would have been able to interject something different to the action.  In the film’s best sequences — an on-foot chase through a riot in Athens and a car chase along the Vegas strip — Greengrass has a hard to top sense of excitement and mayhem.

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The biggest problem with Greengrass’ style is he shoots everything like a chase scene. There’s an abundance of over editing, quick cuts and dizzying transitions. The hand to hand battles are so visually incomprehensible it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening.

Greengrass and co-screenwriter Christopher Rouse paint character development in broad strokes. Despite years passed since his last mission, we get little insight on Bourne’s struggles to live a normal life. Lee’s agenda is weakly explained. Does she think Dewey is past his prime or does she really want to aid Bourne? Another subplot involving Riz Ahmed as a tech billionaire linked with Dewey has a promising start, but falters midway through.

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For devoted Bourne fans, those issues won’t matter. Jason Bourne hits all the marks they’ve come to expect from the series in spectacular fashion. What it lacks in originality Jason Bourne makes up for in consistency as the series clearly isn’t struggling with an identity crisis.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Jasin Boland/Universal Studios

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