Friday, August 5, 2016

Jason Bourne

Of all the franchise movies coming out this summer, this is definitely the one I was least convinced would actually happen. For years now we've been hearing about how Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass have been trying to work out a story for the 4th film in the Bourne series, since apparently neither would return without the other. Even one of my favorite screenwriters, Jonathan Nolan, did a pass on a potential story and wasn't able to come up with anything he was satisfied with. So when it was finally announced that the pair was reuniting for a sequel to Bourne Ultimatum, I couldn't have been more excited. One day I'll have to review the Bourne series, but as I stated in my review of The Bourne Legacy, I am a huge fan of this franchise. With a great deal of optimism (tempered slightly by some mixed early reviews), I went into my screening last week anxious to see what the team had come up with over the last nine years.

Jason Bourne is out of the CIA's spotlight, and has been for years. He's keeping himself in peak physical shape, fighting in an underground boxing league until being approached by Nicky Parsons, a former ally in his conflict with Treadstone. She has been on her own crusade against the CIA, hacking into their files regarding their dark ops programs (particularly their latest effort, known as "Iron Hand") in an attempt to release the info to the public. Bourne still has one burning question about his past, and agrees to help Nicky in hopes that he'll be able to find out why he joined the program in the first place. However, CIA director Robert Dewey finds out about Bourne while attempting to stop Nicky from spilling the agency's secrets to the masses, and orders him to be taken out immediately.

While this does sound a lot like the previous Bourne films - and it admittedly shares many plot points and action scenes with the others in the series - it also has a few interesting and socially relevant twists to the formula that differentiates it from its predecessors. It still has discord and enmity among the CIA commanders, a frightening third-party assassin on Bourne's trail, and a mysterious moment in Jason's past that he needs to reconcile, but all of those elements are heightened in some form or another. Tommy Lee Jones is by far the most ruthless and enigmatic CIA leader that we've seen in a Bourne film, and the conniving ways he seeks to get the upper hand over his enemies (and also his allies) raises the tension for Bourne's mission even more.

There are obviously a few flaws in this film as well, though none of them were so bad that it tainted my enjoyment of the tropes we've come to know and love in this franchise. For example, Julia Stiles has some really stilted dialogue when she and Bourne are first reunited, though her acting takes a quantum leap a little later in the film when **SPOILER ALERT!** she is shot off the back of Bourne's motorcycle by the assassin and crashes to the concrete, stuck in the crosshairs of the sniper rifle while taking her last labored breaths.

One of the major criticisms of this movie was its supposedly ham-fisted insertion of the "relevant" subplot involving a social media empire being funded by the CIA in exchange for unlimited access to the information captured within it. While it may be a little contrived, I still found this part of the movie engaging as well, and found the CIA's response to their reluctance to comply frighteningly believable. Though Bourne is somewhat peripheral in that side of the story, his personal story involving his motivation to join Treadstone was interesting enough to keep me engaged. Just because the movie is titled "Jason Bourne" doesn't necessarily mean that every second of the film has to be revolved around him. All that I need out of a movie is an entertaining story, and this movie definitely provided that.

Ultimately, this is a pretty formulaic Bourne entry, but for those who love the franchise this isn't necessarily a complaint. I found the acting to be great, the action to be fast-paced and visceral, and the twists and turns just about as satisfying as the previous films in this series. I'll do my rankings of the series once I get around to reviewing the others, but this one is a solid effort all around. I give Jason Bourne a (maybe slightly generous) three and a half stars.

JASON BOURNE is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language