Friday, August 12, 2016

Jason Bourne Review

Jason Bourne Review
Over the years, I have rather enjoyed the "Bourne" series. It never once felt like the James Bond series or even an "edgier" James Bond series. Just like I would never compare "Star Wars" to "Star Trek," it seems that the Bourne movies exist on a different plane compared to the James Bond films, even though they deal in the same territory. I have loved Matt Damon in the role ever since the series started up in 2002. I loved his entire original trilogy. I think some steam was lost when they replaced Jason Bourne with Jeremy Renner's character. No disrespect to Renner, but it felt like Hollywood was in dire need to keep the franchise going without its title character, and that can lead to desperation, which is never good in this business. Miraculously, Matt Damon returned to this title role, and it seemed like all would be well.

The interesting thing about all three Matt Damon movies, and even the Jeremy Renner movie, is that they are basically all the same. Damon's Jason Bourne, doesn't know much about himself. But each new film is a different puzzle piece. After every movie, we think we've finally solved the puzzle, we learn that all Bourne has figured out is a small piece of an elaborate book of information. Through each film, he never gets the full story,  but he gets a little bit more of his past. Then he shows the CIA  that he has the best of them right before the Moby music chimes in. Rinse. Repeat. It feels like a film franchise where we get the season premiere and the season finale all in one. The question I have now is that, can we as an audience gain another puzzle piece and still remain interesting?

"Jason Bourne" feels more like an endurance test, rather than a piece of pop entertainment. Its just another piece of the Bourne puzzle that remains ongoing, or movies that keep being made until the franchise stops making money. The only thing I have a problem with is that what we learn in this movie isn't really that appealing or interesting. It seemed like the bread crumb trails of this franchise' yesteryear lead to much more provoking and satisfying conclusions. The payoff of the next reveal isn't that insightful and the entire film hinges on the reveal. By the end of the film, it felt like something was rather incomplete.

Julia Styles returns to the series as Nikki Parsons, who is caught stealing information from the CIA, hoping to sell it and dump it on the internet. She finds something related to Jason Bourne (Damon) and how it somehow links him to the new CIA Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Parsons makes it clear that Bourne HAS to read this information, setting off a chain of events that leads to Bourne to Dewey. Dewey hires the Asset (Vincent Cassel) who has some kind of past with Bourne and plans to kill him. Dewey also receives help from a Cyber Operative Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who uses both Dewey and Bourne for her own needs. The film is loosely connected to another story about Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed, who is really good currently on HBO's "The Night Of") who has a social media conglomerate which will be secretly used by the CIA for mass surveillance.

That's the entire movie in a nutshell. Its not necessarily bad or good, its just indifferent. Nothing much happens in the movie, and I think that's what disappointed me most. We learn so little about Bourne and it feels like so little is progressed. The film features four major action scenes, which provide good intensity and good energy, but they are ultimately fodder for a film that doesn't offer much. In fact, the wrap around story is more interesting that anything involving Bourne. Had they tied Bourne and everything involving the social media service into a better movie, then I'd probably be raving about this movie. I think privacy is going to become a hot topic in the future, considering how the current presidential debate is going, and this movie was a perfect opportunity to react to that in an intelligent way. But the movie keeps coming back to Jason Bourne and his past, even though so little is learned.

Matt Damon is pretty good as Jason Bourne, but is that all we can get with franchise now? Pretty good? I will say though, director Paul Greengrass certainly gets the most out of his actors. Tommy Lee Jones is perfect at these snarky, smug villain-types and he does good work here. Cassel excels as these silent, calculating killers and he certainly doesn't disappoint. Even Vikander, hot off of an Academy Award win, does good work here, never really revealing whose side she's truly on. When the supporting cast is more interesting than your lead though, that's a problem for me.

Maybe this is what comes when you make a movie in franchise that isn't based on something the material came from. This is the first movie in the series not based off the books Robert Ludlum made popular. It certainly feels that way, this one doesn't flow as nicely as the other ones. But it features some good action, good acting, and some really great intensity. The thing I am most curious about is, how many more pieces of Bourne's puzzle do we need to find in order for it to be complete? And also, will the filmmakers make me care?


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