Monday, August 01, 2016

The Bourne Mediocrity

When Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass stated years ago that they were probably done making Jason Bourne movies (leading to a Bourne-less Bourne movie), they spoke with the caveat that they'd always consider coming back if they thought they had a story worth telling. That story is now here with the new movie, Jason Bourne. And I'm hard pressed to identify what about it pulled them back.

Ordinarily, this might be the part where I give the capsule summary of the film -- but that's part of the problem. There's very little new here. Bourne is once again on the run, from high-ranking CIA personnel looking to protect their secret conspiracy from being exposed.

If the dance is the same, the faces are at least a bit different. Matt Damon and Julia Stiles both make return appearances from the original Bourne trilogy, but the cast is otherwise new. Tommy Lee Jones plays the ruthless director of the CIA, a character that basically calls on Jones' schtick from previous movies -- he's reprising Men in Black without the dry humor, or The Fugitive without the sense of morality. Vincent Kassel plays a deadly agent in the field that's after Bourne. Alicia Vikander gets the most interesting of the new roles, a CIA expert in cyber ops who finds her loyalties tested as she too tracks the title character.

We're starting to come full circle here: in the wake of the original Bourne trilogy, the James Bond franchise dropped its playful and unrealistic elements to copy this new series' hard-hitting grittiness. Now, the Bourne movies are beginning to feel a bit like classic Bond films to me, at least in the sense that the bad guys all have the same plan, and are cartoonishly evil in their pursuit of it.

Even the action here is far more implausible than anything the Bourne films has done before, with both people and cars taking a ridiculous amount of punishment without being taken out. That's not to say that it isn't fun at times, but the impulse to up the ante has come at the expense of the Bourne franchise's (quasi-)realism.

This new movie isn't so bad that I'd warn you to stay away. But it is a plot you've seen before, in an iteration less effective than the ones you've seen before. I give Jason Bourne a C. Save it for home video, if you bother at all.

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