Don’t get me wrong, the film delivers on what we’re there for in the first place – Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) kicking ass. It’s just the stuff surrounding it is very tired. In a nutshell, here’s the movie – CIA agent discovers that someone wants to publicly out a black ops program (Ironhand), CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) jumps to the conclusion that Jason Bourne is behind it, young female go-getter agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) promises to deliver Bourne and save the day, Bourne meets up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), action-action-action, a Bourne-like asset (Vincent Cassel) is activated to take out Bourne, more-action, Bourne remembers some stuff, Dewey and young go-getter butt heads, climax scene, the end. With the exception of small details and tweaks, that describes the first two sequels to a tee. I even joked about it in my review of The Bourne Legacy – that the movies are very redundant of each other. And this doesn’t make any sense because the books these movies are based on aren’t like that.
This looks familiar.
(Without sounding too redundant, very mild SPOILERS coming up.)
The strange thing about the film is that the very first thing we hear is Bourne’s voice telling us that he remembers everything. If that were true, then why is he off on another crusade to learn about his past? Several times throughout the movie, Bourne experiences flashbacks revealing things he didn’t previously know or remember. This time around, the memories are of his father’s death and the circumstances surrounding Jason’s recruitment into the program. I understand that they’ve tweaked it to be that his memory of the event isn’t the actual truth, but it still boils down to learning about his past. Maybe you still want that out of these films, but I’m well beyond over it.
This is what we're here for.
To make matters worse, he’s not even actively searching for answers in the beginning, he’s street fighting. He only gets drawn in because Nicky shows up at a fight to tell him what she found out about his father and the Treadstone program after hacking the CIA. Incidentally, this is where that conclusion leap happens by the CIA director – someone hacks into the black ops files and, even though there is nothing to suggest it’s Bourne’s doing, it must be Bourne. Thank you captain contrivance.
The truly missed opportunity with this movie is that it could have kicked off a narrative from the books surrounding an assassin known as the Jackal. Instead of revisiting the same tired what’s-my-past story, why not have the go-getter agent secretly recruit Bourne to help take out the Jackal? Let’s say the Jackal is taking out their assets and they need someone equally skilled who is outside the program to help. You could even keep the head-butting between Dewey and Lee. When people complain about Hollywood not being original, this is what those people mean (even though those people don’t realize it, instead couching it in the form of whining about sequels and reboots). Heck, you could even keep a smidge of the what’s-my-past story by having Lee dangle information in front of Bourne as his payment. This isn’t exactly a new plot either (Mission: Impossible and The Jackal both use it, to name two), but it’s fresh to this series.
In all fairness, the plot of this movie didn’t really bother me; I’m just noting that we’ve been here several times before. The one thing that did bother me is how bad they handled integrating current issues into the narrative. Ironhand (the black ops program) is nothing more than the CIA working with a social network developer (Riz Ahmed) to have a backdoor into said network (Deep Dream – a name as uninspired as the movie’s title) to collect everybody’s information to – say it together with me – “keep us all safe.” Hilariously, the movie tries to simultaneously emphasize the importance of privacy, but both just come off as trite and irrelevant and sound as bungled and tone-deaf as our real-life politicians. This might have worked if the movie had focused on this as its main plot, rather than Bourne’s past, but, well now I’m starting to sound repetitive.
They're worth it.
Much has been written by critics and users about how the new Star Trek movie is nothing special, that it’s more like a mid-season episode of a television series with nothing new to say. Jason Bourne is very much the same. But, is that a bad thing? Most of us watch those repetitive shows precisely for the familiarity and formula and count the days to next week’s episode. Most importantly, if you’re a fan of Damon or Vikander, you will be very pleased with this film. It’s just that with movies, a multi-year wait in between episodes leads us to want more out of the movie. At the very least, they could have given us a more familiar title.
Rating: Ask for four dollars back. Or two if you like Damon and Vikander as much as I do.