Jason Bourne

Here we go again, with Jason Bourne yet another film series that we thought had ended has come back. This time though the time elapsed is short enough that we are continuing with the same character and some of the same cast. Expectations are high. The original Bourne trilogy was excellent and after a failed spin off movie the two stars of the franchise, actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, are back. Both men had publicly stated that they would only return if it was together and if the story merited it so we were clearly in for something special.

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Unfortunately not.

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I don’t want to give this film a kicking; I really admire Greengrass and I’ve already had a go at Pixar this week but there is no way round the fact that Jason Bourne is really really disappointing. I am assuming the story they were itching to tell was the one about surveillance in an age of social media because it can’t be the one regarding the new revelations about Bourne’s past; that part of the narrative is trite. I won’t tell you what the big secret is that brings the reluctant spy out of the cold but it is such a cliché. The plot points revolving around the Facebookish website and its Mark Zuckerbergish founder aren’t actually much better though. (Seriously, I swear Riz Ahmed’s character prep consisted of just watching Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.) This part of the plot is equally obvious and the resolution painfully unsophisticated. I actually cannot see what brought Damon and Greengrass back.

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Significantly the man who hasn’t returned is Tony Gilroy. Gilroy directed the much maligned Jeremy Renner Bourne film so maybe that’s why he is out of the gang but we was also the writer of all of the previous movies. Everyone said that Greengrass’ absence was clearly felt with The Bourne Legacy but Gilroy’s lack of involvement is as sorely missed here. So much of this film is contrived or nonsensical and frankly a few more of Greengrass’ brilliantly orchestrated action scenes just can’t make up for that. This flick needed a much better screenplay.

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In the early stages of the film there are little things that bothered me. While watching one time agent and now hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, the only other returning cast member) on surveillance the new CIA boss Tommy Lee Jones has to tell one of his team to identify the man she’s with. They all think she is meeting Bourne and everyone knows what he looks like so why does is this command necessary? It doesn’t add to the tension, it just adds to the stupid. Later on Bourne is on the phone to the CIA and it is clear to him they know where he is but he has to be warned that a take-down team is coming to get him. He’s Jason Bourne, in the past he’d have known this and he’d have been ready to outsmart them. At one point they even do that thing you get in loads of movies like this where they have a fuzzy photo and someone says ‘enhance that’ and they can magically add more mega pixels. That isn’t how photographs work, you zoom in on an out of focus picture it just gets more blurred.

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I could have let this stuff go though if there hadn’t been such big problems with the rest of movie. I’ve already mentioned the tired idea for why Bourne comes out of hiding but worse than that is the characterisation of the bad guys. One of the strengths of the other films is that the villain’s motivations have always been a little grey. People have been victimised but it was always in the name of the greater good and national security. The baddies of this piece are just megalomaniacs or psychopaths. Vincent Cassel is the enemy superspy in this one but he has none of the dispassionate, just doing a job, motivation of Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy. He has as much subtlety as a truck smashing its way through a load of traffic and when he stole a truck and smashed his way through a load of traffic I just lost it with the film entirely. By the end I just thought I was watching a Die Hard film and not one of the good ones either, I’m talking Die Hard 5.

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It is just a shame that a film series that once redefined the action and spy genre has become so generic. There is barely a new idea in the whole movie. Even the poster tag line is ripped off from an old James Bond film. I wanted you back boys but now I wish you’d stayed away.

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The Ripley Factor:

Alicia Vikander plays a fairly key part in the film and she is a determined and independent soul who isn’t afraid to stand up the enemy but I miss Joan Allen’s Pamela Landy.

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Is this one for the kids?

As is typical of Paul Greengrass the action is brutal but not bloody. There is enjoyment to be had from watching his typical style of action but it is not enough. The film is a 12A

 

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