Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Former CIA assassin Jason Bourne has returned to unravel the truth of his origins while doing battle with those determined to destroy him in the highly-anticipated sequel to 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. If that description doesn’t ring any bells, then you probably haven’t seen the first three films in the franchise.
While it manages to be mildly entertaining at times, Jason Bourne is essentially just an unnecessary epilogue to the original trilogy that will leave you wondering how many more layers there could possibly be to the already overstretched Treadstone conspiracy. There was a real opportunity to take the character in an exciting new direction in the wake of Ultimatum’s ambiguous ending, but apparently writer/director Paul Greengrass would rather reopen resolved plot points in a tedious attempt to extend a story that was wrapped up neatly enough nine years ago.
Considering it’s taken so long to make another movie revolving around Bourne, it seems safe to assume that there was originally no intention to reveal anything else about his past once he’d regained his memories and exposed Treadstone. That being the case, it feels extremely redundant to retroactively assert that we weren’t presented with all of the facts at the end of the last film instead of telling a tale that takes the eponymous protagonist into uncharted territory.
Maybe the powers that be thought that no one would complain if they crammed in as many fast-paced set-pieces as possible, but the action is often so excessive that it ends up being boring. Several mind-numbingly long car chases throw realism to the wind, while a government sanctioned hit at a very public event completely transcends the boundaries of believability. The fist fights fare considerably better than the gun play and explosions, which is due in no small part to the intensity of the headlining star’s performance.
Matt Damon is by far the best thing about this movie. He keeps Bourne compelling by imbuing him with a tough, world-weary demeanour that effectively conveys the character’s inner torment. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for his co-stars, who are all wasted in poorly written parts despite having proved their prowess in other projects.
Julia Stiles serves as nothing but a plot device as Nicky Parsons, while Hollywood heavyweight Tommy Lee Jones plays a shady CIA Director whose generic depiction doesn’t do much to differentiate him from the likes of Ward Abbott and Noah Vosen. Vincent Cassel’s “Asset” is also interchangeable with previous villains of the same ilk. His only distinguishing attribute is an incredibly contrived connection to Bourne’s past that represents everything that’s wrong with the narrative. Then there’s Alicia Vikander’s cyber specialist Heather Lee, who comes across as a less effective version of Pamela Landy.
It’s a shame that the filmmakers’ failure to explore new avenues has resulted in such an underwhelming entry in an otherwise outstanding series. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the final nail in the character’s coffin because Bourne still has plenty of potential as a protagonist. He simply needs a script that moves him forward rather than trapping him under the thumb of Treadstone.
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