When it was announced that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass were returning for another installment of the Jason Bourne saga, it was a bit of mixed feelings for me. First off, I was definitely looking forward to it as a fan of the series but I believe both men had said that after The Bourne Ultimatum that they were finished with the franchise and were moving on. Unfortunately for the two, that movie would be Green Zone, the only misfire Greengrass has made up to this point in his career, as I see it. I guess Damon saw the fun Jeremy Renner was having in the smaller and more contained The Bourne Legacy and wanted to get back in on that action himself. So, Jason Bourne was going to happen but this time without the involvement of Bourne staple Tony Gilroy. It’s a brave new world that this saga enters without its main storyteller.
My second thought was dealing with whether we even needed another story with the Bourne character. Hadn’t we already had a definitive wrap on the story set up in The Bourne Identity? The original purpose, as I saw it, was that a government created soldier with amnesia needed to figure out where he came from and who he is. Furthermore, he wanted to burn that organization to the ground. By the time the credits roll on Ultimatum, this is accomplished. Treadstone has been disabled and exposed and Jason Bourne has found his true name of David Webb. Sounds like closure to me but the star, the director and Universal Pictures saw differently.
This new film picks up ten years after Jason Bourne disappeared off the face of the planet. Now it appears that Bourne is part of some traveling fight club, one punching people for prize money and haunted by a fragment of a memory of his father, Richard Webb. Meanwhile, Nikki (Julia Stiles) his former contact at Treadstone has gone off the grid herself and is investigating all the secret black ops files of how the program was created in the first place, a paper trail that leads to Bourne’s own father as one of the leaders. Finally tracking down the former assassin, Nikki inadvertently draws him out to the attention of the CIA, it’s director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his tech expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).
The mission gets deeper for Bourne as he finds out that Dewey is looking to launch a program just like Treadstone called The Iron Hand, which also has the purpose of eliminating him rather than bringing him in. Making the endeavor even more dangerous for the titular character, the operative that has been put on his trail is an assassin (Vincent Cassel) who has a vendetta against him as the exposure of Treadstone left him in a situation that would almost kill him. There’s also a subplot dealing with a tech developer that’s looking to launch a new information sharing program with help from the CIA, which would assumedly fit in with The Iron Hand. It all forms the backdrop for Bourne’s renewed investigation into his past and the search for further vengeance.
I’m dismayed to find that my fears for this film were entirely realized because I found this film to be completely unnecessary and even worse, I found it pretty lackluster aside from one sequence of something genuinely exciting. Jason Bourne does nothing new for the series, adopts a tired rendition at the tried and tested formula and does nothing to avoid looking like a lazy, tacked-on continuation. The first four movies in this whole Bourne story all have a sense of intrigue to them and have a few twists and reveals that give a bit of excitement and Jason Bourne decides to wear everything right out on its sleeve. Never did I feel like the next plot point wasn’t immediately obvious and you find yourself wondering how far from Robert Ludlum it has gotten.
It’s disappointing to think that this is the franchise that really changed the landscape for spy and espionage thrillers, even influencing the way James Bond films were being made. The action is still fast and plentiful but it seems Paul Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd can’t refrain from having the shot far too close to the fight or jarring the camera so much that it’s a strain to figure out what’s going on. The Bourne Supremacy suffered from this a bit and it continues in this one.
The biggest injustice that Jason Bourne commits is by obviously fatiguing the whole franchise and, as it appears, only for the sake of an actor-director combo all of a sudden didn’t have the confidence in their ending to their story in 2007. Not quite as drastic as the misadventure Indiana Jones went through in Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull but, for me, this film is the lowest point of the Bourne movies and might find itself as being one of those “watch all of the movies but that one because it’s terrible”. Matt Damon may have just screwed Jeremy Renner out of his return by wanting another helping of Bourne for himself. It saddens me to give this score, truly, but I give Jason Bourne a two out of five.