Holy smokes – I went to the movies!
It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or the interest in making my way to the cinema to check something out on the big screen. I’ve been pretty underwhelmed with the movie options that the summer of 2016 has had to offer, so while I have been pretty busy there also hasn’t been much incentive to make the effort to head over to the mall for the latest release. However, the return of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne was cause for celebration, so I spent my rainy Sunday afternoon checking out the latest installment of the franchise.
I’ve generally really liked all of the Bourne movies, including when Damon was briefly replaced by Jeremy Renner. I know that Renner tends to go out of his way to lessen his endearment to people, but for some reason I tend to find his boorish behavior weirdly charming. That probably is something that I should discuss with my therapist, but I thought that Renner was just fine in 2012’s The Bourne Legacy. It’s nice to shake up the formula a bit and bring in someone new. However, just because I was OK with Renner in the lead didn’t mean that there wasn’t some definite excitement with the news that Damon and director Paul Greengrass were reuniting for a new installment. The fact that they were getting the band back together, so to speak, was an indication that they had something new to offer the franchise. Not everyone was as forgiving of The Bourne Legacy, so the original players reassembling had the potential to “right the ship” in regards to the legacy of the franchise.
While I will never turn down the opportunity to watch Matt Damon show off his arms, I don’t think that Jason Bourne did what people were hoping it would. It’s a fine movie – perfectly serviceable and certainly not a disaster – but it all feels too generic and familiar at this point. There are some individual action sequences that really stand out and the same frenetic pace of the camera work is still wonderfully disorienting, yet I couldn’t help feeling like Jason Bourne was a reminder of how great the original trilogy was and how this latest chapter wasn’t quite up to snuff. While the plot has never necessarily been the strong suit of the action movie genre, Jason Bourne barely even attempts a cohesive story. Instead, it is satisfied to jump from action sequence to action sequence, with only the thinnest thread of narrative trying to hold it all together. When Jason Bourne was a man with no memory, fighting to understand who he was and what had happened to him, there were real stakes. Now that Bourne remembers most things, some of the air has been let out of the balloon. His blankness as a character is harder to ignore and Bourne seems to have gotten dumber than in previous outings. I mean, I’m no spy or trained assassin – as far as you know – but stopping to read a bunch of computer documents in front of a big window when you are on the run from people trying to kill you seems like something that would have been covered in espionage 101.
Much has been made of Damon’s relatively silent performance – he only has 45 lines of dialogue in the entire film – and I think that is symbolic of the problem with the movie Jason Bourne in that it doesn’t really have anything to say. You could even argue that Bourne is a tertiary character in the movie that bears his name, as a lot of screen time is devoted to the tension between CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his protégé CIA analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) as well as Dewey’s dealings with tech millionaire Aaron Kalloor (The Night Of’s Riz Ahmed). However, even these conflicts aren’t all that exciting as they echo the plots of pretty much every thriller set in a post-Edward Snowden era.
I can’t say that Jason Bourne wasn’t entertaining, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I checked the time several times during the movie because I was ready for things to star wrapping up or because whatever was happening on screen didn’t really hold my attention. When a film is wall to wall action with little time to breathe, you can easily become pretty desensitized to what you are watching unfold. I also had to keep reminding myself what exactly Bourne was hopping to accomplish as he racked up a property damage bill equivalent to the GDP of a small country.
I’ll watch Matt Damon in just about anything, but unless they can come up with a new angle or someway to breathe some fresh life into the Bourne franchise, it’s probably time for it to go gently into that good night. If they were concerned about the damage that The Bourne Legacy did to the memory of the series, I’m not sure that Jason Bourne is much of a step in the right direction. While The Bourne Identity was revolutionary at the time and completely transformed the genre, Jason Bourne is a paint by numbers, poor imitation of the original trilogy. They assembled a great cast, but then didn’t give them much to do. Jason Bourne runs a lot, but Jason Bourne is running on fumes.
Jason Bourne opened nationwide on Friday.