I feel like a lot of this is just going to be me getting things off my chest. Because, and here it comes, I’ve never liked the Bourne movies. I didn’t like them when they first showed up with The Bourne Identity and I sure as hell didn’t care for it when they did the spinoff, The Bourne Legacy, a few years ago. I get that they have some interesting things going on in terms of their reflection on the post-9/11 pop culture zeitgeist. I get that there is some artistry in the filmmaking, especially with talent like Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass behind the camera. But…guys, I just really don’t care. They’re boring, uninteresting; the expressionistic action is fine at first, but it just gets repetitive and largely uninventive, and did I mention that it’s boring?
Look, I don’t want to waste too much of your time here, especially in the way the latest uninspiringly titled installment, Jason Bourne, wasted mine. It’s another boring, uninteresting and aggressively uncompelling chapter in a boring, uninteresting and aggressively uncompelling character’s life. We get more back story for Jason Bourne, most of it weirdly undoing the whole subversion in Ultimatum where we find out he volunteered for the program to begin with. So, not only is the film bad, but it retroactively neuters the past films. There’s also yet another assassin (Vincent Cassel) coming after him, who is simply a stooge for yet another old guy in a suit (Tommy Lee Jones). The story beats follow pretty closely to all the other films in the series and the action sequences are nothing to write home about. At least, the final car chase would’ve been really neat had it not been over edited to death.
Spy and espionage stories are hard to pull off, and part of what always bugged me about the Bourne franchise was the very foundational approach. To me, there’s two ways to do a spy movie. You can go big and crazy, like James Bond, or the recent Man from U.N.C.L.E. Or you could play things small, intimate and real, stuff like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or literally any film adaptation of a John le Carré novel. Bourne applies documentary, almost improvisational or guerrilla, style filmmaking to a story that could basically be summarized as Mopey McAwesome beats up symbolic right wing anxieties while trying to regain his lost memory. Sounds pretty stupid, but a good storyteller can at least make the stupidity endearing, but the franchise has been nothing but pompous. Yes, these are far less politically problematic than the rah-rah patriotic American power fantasy we feared this franchise would have been before it came out, but come on, it’s time to be real about this series.
Like, there’s literally a scene where a CIA agent is looking at camera feeds in a control room, she sees a person of interest, pauses the feed and screams “enhance image!” Let me remind you I’m talking about a 2016 Paul Greengrass movie. Granted, the series has always had the logical coherence of an episode of CSI, but goodness gracious. Not to mention the laughable attempt at giving gravitas to the mere mention of the name “Jason Bourne” whenever he’s talked about in CIA offices. While the hilarious “Jesus Christ, that’s Jason Bourne!” line from the trailer doesn’t make it into the film, there’s an equally funny delivery of a similar reaction to the mention of the character. At least John Wick knew that this was a silly trope, and used it to a tongue and cheek effect.
Now, even with my general dislike of the series, I think Jason Bourne is easily the worst that I can understand being an overall “disappointment.” Individual moments and scenes in the original three gave those films a certain drive and energy that is really lacking here. Everyone looks and feels tired and unengaged, thus the film feels that way as well. The attempt at adding relevancy with the commentary on surveillance and privacy issues is just lip service that is of no consequence and adds nothing to the narrative. The performances are cold and lifeless, so much so that even some of my favorite actors like Riz Ahmed and Alicia Vikander make little to no impression whatsoever. It’s just a total waste of time, money, talent and space.
This is about all I got. It’s hard for me to muster up any more points and frankly, the film seems like even it can’t be bothered with delivering a competently engaging experience, so why should I have to make more of an effort? I get that this series has its fans, and maybe you guys might be able to find some enjoyment here, even though it is a lesser chapter in the franchise. But for me, in an already abysmal summer movie season, this one was probably the biggest chore to sit through. I haven’t felt such a physical urge to leave the theater or fall asleep in a really long time, but I never walk out of movies, and the asshole sitting next to me kept nudging my shoulder every time he grabbed at his popcorn, so I couldn’t even sleep. 35/100