Jason Bourne (2016)
Some treasures are better left untouched. Back in 2002, The Bourne Identity breathed a new life into the genre of action spy thrillers which had become stale, thanks to those mediocre yet horribly smug James Bond flicks. A couple of years later, The Bourne Supremacy raised the bar with a sequel that improved upon its predecessor. And finally in 2007, the Jason Bourne saga came to its final conclusion with The Bourne Ultimatum which set a new benchmark for its genre by wrapping the series on an extremely satisfying note, was the finest of the three instalments, and was remarkable enough to join the ranks of the greatest films ever made.
Together, the three films make up for one of the greatest trilogies in motion picture history, have played an influential role in revitalising its genre(s), and are also notable for catapulting Matt Damon to Hollywood stardom while further solidifying director Paul Greengrass’ position as one of the first-rate filmmakers working in the industry today. There never was a need for another one because all the loose ends were tied up, all the questions were answered, and the whole journey went full circle in those three instalments. But in an age where franchises aren’t allowed to rest in peace until they have been milked for all their worth, Jason Bourne was always destined to return.
I believe there is only one term to describe the latest instalment in the Jason Bourne saga: Unnecessary. And by that, I don’t mean it to be a bad film by any means, for Jason Bourne retains all the trademarks of the series, delivers exactly what was expected from it, packs in some pulse-pounding action sequences, and is fuelled by another stellar performance from Matt Damon. The problem is that it fails to bring or add anything new to the franchise the way its predecessors did during their time of release, and although the whole experience of sitting through this constantly moving thriller is worth the price of its ticket, it isn’t as memorable as the first three chapters, unfortunately.
Set a decade after the events that transpired in The Bourne Ultimatum, the story of Jason Bourne finds the former CIA assassin still haunted by few unresolved images from his past. His return to the world he disappeared from long ago is ultimately set in motion when Nicky Parsons, a former CIA operative, hacks into the agency’s database in order to make their black-ops programs public and finds more information about Bourne’s past. Eventually making contact with Bourne, she tells him about her discovery, but they are both traced by CIA and are hunted again. Drawn out of hiding & driven by a personal vendetta this time, the trained assassin sets off on a new journey to uncover hidden truths about his past.
Written & directed by Paul Greengrass in what is his third stint with the series, Jason Bourne makes use of nearly everything that’s great about his filmmaking style as well as this particular franchise, be it the sense of immediacy that is effectively sustained from beginning to end or the visceral, chaotic & kinetic handheld camerawork that infuses more urgency into the story, or its emphasis on real stunt work over CGI when filming action scenes and yet in the end, it leaves its viewers wondering if the whole ordeal of bringing Jason Bourne out of hiding was worth it. The story is always in motion, the action segments keep surfacing at regular intervals, and it is better than what most cashgrab sequels manage to be but there is nothing in it that we haven’t seen before.
The screenplay itself features a weak plot that treads on familiar routes, and inhabits new characters that have no flesh on their arcs. The ongoing debate about privacy & encryption is also crammed into the script for no reason, and since it plays no role in influencing Bourne’s action, it feels completely out of place because of that. From the technical standpoint, there isn’t much to complain as all its aspects work in harmony to recapture the tone & feel of the previous instalments. Cinematography once again employs the dynamic, frenzied & vigorous camerawork to give an added intensity to the unfolding events and is wonderfully assisted by John Powell’s vibrant score, while Editing provides a throttling pace to the whole story but fails to trim out the needless moments.
Coming to the performances, the cast comprises of Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles & Riz Ahmed, with Damon & Stiles being the only returning members. Damon is once again able to get under the skin of his near-invincible character and delivers a magnificent performance as Jason Bourne but there’s a slight hint of tiredness in his work this time. Still, it is his input that carries the whole film past the finish line. The next best contribution comes from Stiles who, even in her brief role, plays her part with confidence. Cassel also impresses in bits n pieces as the Asset who holds a personal grudge against Bourne. Vikander is passable in her role, Lee Jones delivers a one-note performance as if he didn’t want to be in the movie while Ahmed’s character wasn’t even required.
On an overall scale, Jason Bourne is no match to The Bourne Trilogy but it still delivers a more thrilling, entertaining & action-packed extravaganza than duds like Spectre, and features enough pulsating, breathtaking, relentless, furious & frenetic carnage during its moments of action to delight both fans of the franchise as well as action aficionados. However, as far as its drama goes, the story isn’t compelling enough and lacks the fine balance that the first three films showcased with startling ease. Another frustrating thing about it is that a few moments that looked amazing in the previews are either shot from wrong angles or are entirely missing in the final print. Needless is indeed the word that best describes this latest entry but the mayhem displayed by its action sequences alone puts its above majority of summer spectacles in what has been a lacklustre year for Hollywood blockbusters.