2016.99: Jason Bourne
I’m rather a fan of the Bourne films- certainly the first three, and the fourth (and first non-Matt Damon outing) The Bourne Legacy had its moments, but it’s now clear that the problems with that flawed fourth entry in the franchise were not unique to itself. This latest film, simply titled Jason Bourne, sees the welcome return of both Matt Damon in the title role and also celebrated director Paul Greengrass, but alas it carries many of the problems of that fourth film which at the time were perhaps shrugged aside as simply being the by-product of not having Damon or Greengrass involved.
Sadly, this film has none of the energy and freshness of the first three films, with few surprises (and some of those unwelcome). Instead its a tired and surprisingly unimaginative retread of so much that has gone before, to the degree that it almost feels like a reboot rather than a continuation of the saga. Perhaps thats simply another indication of safety-concious Hollywood and its unwillingness sometimes to really stretch a franchise away from the familiar – a criticism that could well be laid at the feet of the rival series of James Bond films.
Perhaps its due to the length of time between the previous Greenhouse-helmed and Damon-starring entry, but there’s certainly an element of doubt and lack of conviction about this effort. Dare I say it almost feels like a cash-grab? To fans such as myself, that’s the worst thing of all regards this film- in anycase, its woefully overfamiliar: Jason Bourne is living a life ‘under the radar’ until he is again brought under the gaze of the CIA and factions within it that need Bourne silenced/terminated, an ensuing chase around the world with Bourne at odds with elaborate high-tech surveillance tech in his search for a hidden truth about his past (in this case, the particularly awkward introduction of his dead father and Bourne’s search for justice/revenge). It almost feels like a ‘Greatest Hits’ package of elements from each of first three films: Bourne resurfaces, he’s abetted by ‘honest’ CIA staff, he has to avenge the death of his wife (father here), the head of the CIA is corrupt, the odds are against him but Bourne stays one step ahead, the tech fails in the face of the human element, Bourne goes back under the radar. I’m sure I’m not spoiling anything- you really have seen it all before.
Worse, the execution itself feels rather uninspired, with action scenes and stunts all sadly inferior to those of the first three films. Its a frankly disappointing effort and while some fans will enjoy the familiarity of the returning characters and themes, I’m sure that most, like me, will feel rather let-down by the distinct lack of originality. The Bourne films have been a welcome alternative (and some would argue a needed kick in the teeth) to the Bond films, and it’s odd to see the Bourne films in something of a creative crisis at the same time as the Bond films seem to be suffering from one.Maybe its a general issue with the spy-thriller genre in the wake of the spectacles of the superhero films that dominate the screen these days. Or maybe the recent Mission: Impossible films are having an impact on Bourne as clearly as they are the Bond films. I do hope the Bourne films can continue, particularly with Damon as he’s clearly a great action hero in these, but perhaps with the next film a fresh approach can revitalise it. It certainly needs something.