Jason Bourne (2016)

The long-awaited and much-anticipated returns of both Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass to the Bourne brand of action films has happened. It’s been nine years since The Bourne Ultimatum’s successful release. So many of us were really primed for this new film

While the box office returns are so far excellent (an estimated 60 million for the opening weekend), there’s both good news and bad news. This new entry is called simply – Jason Bourne. and the one factor that has served the Bourne franchise so well over the years, is that they have a successful formula. That’s the good news as the box office returns have shown us.

Car chases, deadly hand to hand combat, exciting locales, as well corruption and intrigue within the government.

Jason Bourne (this is the 5th Bourne feature and the 4th with Matt Damon) clings almost religiously to that formula. In short, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And that’s also the bad news. Let’s look at some of the particulars.

After Bourne jumped into the East River from the facility on E 71st and then swam away, and after Parsons boarded a bus to somewhere out of Tangiers, Morocco in The Bourne Ultimatum – one would have thought that they’d have trouble reconnecting. But they did. Albeit nine years later.

Nicky who was in charge of logistics and the agents well-being is now capable of hacking. And how she found Bourne is not explained any kind of depth.

As for Bourne himself, these days he supports himself in a Fight Club kind of atmosphere and the his latest match is near the border between Greece and Albania.

Nicky tell Bourne that his own father was somehow involved with creation of Treadstone. And as expected Parson’s intrusion (hack) was detected. So off we go.

From this jumping off point it is another Bourne film which means Greengrass stuck to the formula. The film works quite well as an action/adventure. And by sticking to the formula, there were no surprises. As well as a distinct sense of this all seems so familiar. Including the shaky-cam aspects.

In Supremacy at the location known as Alexanderplatz, with its student protest march in Berlin became Syntagma Square in Athens where Greek citizens protesting,  often violently, the new Greek program of austerity. In each case, Bourne used the crowds as cover to make an escape. Below he has just taken Nicky off the tram at Alexanderplatz.

How about Bourne riding a motorcycle up and down steps in Tangier becoming Bourne riding up and down steps in Athens on a Greek police motorbike..

Or An unbelievable motor chase that we saw on the streets of Paris (Identity) and then in a tunnel Moscow (Supremacy) becoming a parking garage in Las Vegas.

Tommy Lee Jones has replaced David Strathairn who replaced Brian Cox as the sharp end of the stick. Jones was kind of subdued here, yet he retains all his gruffness and craggy visage, that we’ve come to love over the years.

And Alicia Vikander has replaced Joan Allen as the Bourne antagonist/supporter. Alicia Vikander may been cast in this key role just as a marketing ploy to attract some younger female viewers, and although she wasn’t bad, she didn’t look old enough, or seasoned enough to be running a CIA Operational Control Room like Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy.

Usually, in all the prior Bourne movies, Langley, London,  or New York or Berlin were able to reach out to other assassins who were employed by the Agency to do contract wet-work and to sic them on to Bourne. Usually they were always sitting around idle and when their phones received text messages, they swung into action. They were known collectively as well as individually as The Asset or The Assets.

Cassel as Asset in Athens

Cassel as Asset in Athens

This time around, the Asset is identified and his own backstory (in this case a serious grudge against Bourne0 is revealed. Vincent Cassel has the role of The Asset this time around, and like all the previous Assets, they’re able to cross borders, make travel arrangements, and have a new and fresh arsenal at their disposal when they arrived. Cassel is excellent and he adds much to the film.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Too bad Bourne just stood there as Vikander’s Heather Lee walked away from him in the DC park at the end. I was expecting a line similar to the one Bourne gave Joan Allen at the end of Ultimatum – Get some rest Pam, you look tired.

Not this time. In fact there’s no lightness at all.

As for the CIA (always the villains in the Bourne movies) – we have CIA Director Robert Dewey (Jones) meeting with the newest Internet billionaire Aaron Kallur. Now Dewey wants this entrepeneur to open up some kind of back door into Kallur platform so he, and the agency can spy on all of us all the time.

Riz Ahmed plays Kallur and he doesn’t want to do it. I don’t believe that will stop Dewey but it is in the film. Mostly underdeveloped, but this what Greengrass does – he incorporates his own political views into the fabric of the plot. Meaning he’s dead set aginst this kind of surveillance. As I said, it was underdeveloped to the extent that wasn’t necessary.

The film is wickedly fast paced and it literally moves along with rapidity nearly throughout. There’s no breaks like with Bourne and Marie driving to Paris. There’s one brief scene with Bourne on the train leaving Athens. So the breathless pace is a major plus.

Plus there are some serious questions plot wise. ****SPOILERS FOLLOW****.

If Bourne is doing fisticuffs in Northern Greece – he’s likely way off the grid. So How does Parsons find him. Its not like when Bourne arrived in Berlin in search of Pamela Landy that he just called hotels. Or like when he arrived in Moscow, he found the Nesky girl in the phone book.

Or what about Dewey. After the Kallur shooting in the hotel’s convention arena, he asks his body guards not to take him away to a safer location. He says Bring me up to my suite. There he sits with a gun at the ready. Now Dewey had wanted Bourne to be taken down, and although he allowed Heather to talk him out of it. you can tell he still wanted Bourne dead.

As expected Bourne is able to get into the suite (silently) and confront Dewey, who clearly would have to reach for his gun and then take aim. Bourne would put a round into his forehead as soon as he moved. So unless he could create a hiding space within the suite, waiting for Bourne alone seemed kind of dumb.

Just as dumb as Brian Cox’s confession in Supremacy. As I said, the more things change the more they remain the same.

But as I said up above – the lack of originality does contribute to a lower score. My rating is three point seven five out of five.

Still, if you go in expecting JUST more of the same, and MORE of what you know which is the Bourne formula – you come out satisfied if not excitedly pleased..

 

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