Jason Bourne: Back, But Definitely Not Better Than Ever

Bourne poster

Jason Bourne Plot Summary:

After years of staying off the grid, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is brought out of hiding when an old ally (Julia Stiles) discovers critical information about Bourne’s past, as well as a new dangerous program being spearheaded by the CIA, who try once again to bring down the super spy.

This film is actually a ruse. Jeremy Renner is back as Aaron Cross! Relax, I’m kidding. Matt Damon is indeed back as Jason Bourne, but not quite better than ever. There aren’t any glaring weaknesses with this movie, but it plays it pretty darn safe. It’s definitely a Jason Bourne movie, but I was surprised at how underwhelmed and bored I was throughout most of it. It was just missing something. It doesn’t have the cool factor of the original, the tension of the acclaimed sequel, or the all-out vengeance of the last time we saw Jason Bourne. While the second half brings plenty of firepower and entertainment, the movie rehashes so many old tropes and plot points, it feels completely unnecessary. In a way, this was always the case. There’s a reason they went in the spin-off direction. Bourne’s story was over. The Bourne Legacy was such a miss though that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass felt a responsibility to make it up to the fans. The result isn’t bad, but they had no choice but to cheat the Bourne mythology.

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The entire basis of this series was always Bourne trying to remember his past. In every movie he gets bits and pieces. In this fourth film, it becomes totally and utterly contrived. I can’t believe the route they took. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say they bring in a Bourne family member to tie it back into Treadstone. Really? That’s what they went with. Oy vey. That’s not the biggest problem though. The biggest problem is that there’s nothing new here. There’s always a bigger and badder new CIA program that needs to be shut down. There’s always another “Asset” who they turn on to stop Bourne. There’s always another random CIA guy who was involved with Treadstone that we didn’t know about. At this point, this big secret project now includes the entire cast of Family Matters. One of those new CIA jerk bags is Tommy Lee Jones.

Speaking of which, the new additions to the cast were all hits. You can’t go wrong with Tommy Lee Jones as generic evil CIA director. He does what he does best. You also can’t go wrong with recent Oscar winner, Alicia Vikander. She plays a super CIA computer genius who’s all business. Her motivations always kept you guessing. Vincent Cassel joins in the fun as new super duper unstoppable asset. There’s not a whole lot to this guy, but at least Cassel brings the intensity that’s needed. We also get Riz Ahmed who plays the founder of a big time Social Media company that plays a crucial role in the plot. I appreciated his charisma. There’s also Ato Essandoh, who plays Tommy Lee Jones’ lap dog. He just looks concerned all the time. Yeah, the new characters are swell, but come on, it’s all about Damon.

Jason Bourne has never been written as the most electrifying character. When Damon took this role back in 2002, he really put his stamp on it. He plays the character like a twelve-year football veteran. He hasn’t missed a beat. Speaking of athlete, Bourne is buff as hell, and looks as if he took the Rocky IV diet. What’s interesting is even though Bourne looks to be in the best shape of his life, they make a point of telling you he’s aging and tired. As much as I didn’t care for the story, they manage to infuse in some good character development. The movie is appropriately titled Jason Bourne. The idea of grasping and accepting who Bourne is was a great idea.  I wish they delved into this more. The only other returning character is Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, who’s been a thread ever since the first film. There’s not a ton to this character, but you always appreciate her presence. This was probably Stiles’ best turn in the role.

bourne pic 2 

Aside from Bourne himself, this series has always been known for its action, sleuth sequences and brutal fight scenes. In this department, it’s a mixed bag. The first big chase is on foot through a massive riot in Greece. I was surprised at how bored I was throughout this sequence. I found myself thinking about the laundry I had to do later. This sequence did end with a big wow moment though. The action is fairly forgettable in the first half, but definitely gives you those Bourne moments you crave for later on. There’s a couple great, tension filled “everybody is being surveillanced” scenes like in the previous movie, as all the characters try to get to a specific place. It’s classic Bourne. And while there’s a great emotional climax between Bourne and Tommy Lee Jones’ character, it leads into a very Hollywood car chase. Lame. The show stopper is the fight at the end though, which is nasty. That was worth the price of admission.

If you’re a diehard Jason Bourne fan, you’ll be satisfied. It’s just not at the caliber of those first three films. The end definitely picks up, and it leaves you with a lot of twists and turns, but it has that Hollywood unnecessary sequel feel all throughout. This movie falls into the vortex that has been the summer of it’s not bad, but not great either. If I may borrow a classic phrase: “It is what it is.”

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly Better Than ‘Meh’)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.