Matt Damon is back at it as 2000’s action movie poster-boy Jason Bourne, but this time around we are all a little older and way more tired.
I can’t tell which would be more difficult to fabricate; a succinct summary of the events of the original Bourne trilogy or an acute fondness and nostalgia for the franchise. The former would likely be more helpful were you to go see Jason Bourne, the return of Matt Damon’s titular character, because even a love of The Bourne Supremacy can’t save this one. Like its protagonist, Jason Bourne is better off dead.
It doesn’t help that the first fifteen minutes of this primarily action driven film requires a deep reservoir of knowledge about the series. An opening montage tries its best to explain the convoluted nature of the Bourne universe, but it is indecipherable at best. In the minutes that follow we find out Jason Bourne is in hiding and the CIA is very, very displeased. A bombastic, but not particularly engaging action sequence ensues and Nicky Parsons is killed, Bourne is pissed and all the while we are supposed to pretend Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is a character that’s been in the franchise before.
The plot boils down to this: Bourne is on the loose and is a threat to the CIA’s evil surveillance scheme. Dewey wants him dead (and enlists the help of Asset, who also plays a huge role in Bourne’s past and has been sloppily retconned into the timeline) and Agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) thinks he could be of vital importance to the Agency. Vikander gives the best performance of the film, despite an inconsistent and distracting American accent. Not that she has much competition. Damon’s Bourne is more stoic than ever, playing a role akin to God of War protagonist Kratos. Jason Bourne is a cool premise for an action hero, but what we learn about him in is a crux of the film that takes a minute to reveal and unless you are a diehard for this lore, is the single most inconsequential event of the film.
As a consolation prize, I will give Jason Bourne a pass for at least trying to make a premise relevant to 2016. Actually scratch that, I would have until the line “This is bad. It could be worse than Snowden.” Edward Snowden, yes, the only cultural touchstone for government surveillance and the paranoia that ensues. The Bourne universe CIA is hatching a plot, though the assistance of a major tech CEO, to have access to everyones private info. Scary, except for the fact that we have already hit that point. Google knows all, remember? Their aren’t many nefarious details to their plan, and frankly the whole commentary on information in the internet age is half-baked and out of touch.
It’s a bummer too, because some of the action sequences in the latter half of the film are actually fun. Cross-hatched schemes create Vinkander v. Jones v. Bourne in the third of Jason Bourne’s four set pieces. It’s the one that will get your adrenaline pumping the most. All I can say about the climax is it feels like an episode of Silicon Valley on meth. If that sounds ridiculous and out of place, it sure is, but Paul Greengrass is a competent action director and that begins to show.
It’s hard to recommend Jason Bourne to… well, to anyone at all. It’s not the worst film of the year, and certainly won’t be the worst action film of the year. There just isn’t much going for it. So do yourself a favor, save the money, and go find an old DVD of the Bourne Identity or — if you do take a trip to the theater — at least do some Wikipedia research beforehand.
Jason Bourne hits theaters on July 29.