Is the new Bourne as great as the rest of the franchise?
After a painful wait and a mass of standard, poorly executed and unoriginal action movies, Bourne is finally back. Being the fourth film in the franchise (yes, I know it’s actually the fifth – I’ll get to that later) with Matt Damon, I was already versed in the core of what made the original three films so great. Subsequently, before walking into the cinema, I already had a few expectations: a solid, badass performance by the Asset, riveting action sequences and an interesting and unique plot. Does Paul Greengrass’s latest rendition tick those boxes? Let’s find out.
Bourne returns to the helm, believe it or not, even more outcast and lost than he previously was.
Being almost 20 years since his experimentation with the CIA’s special-ops program, Bourne is a recluse on the fringes of society, living in a shady area of Greece and surviving off very Fight Club-esque beat-ups (as I’m sure you can guess, he wins, almost always escaping unscathed). When tipped by a friend about a newfound piece of information relating to his identity, the new kids on the block, Deep Dream, stumble upon Bourne’s whereabouts and aggressively pursue him.
Deep Dream, a CIA backed program headed by Stanford genius Aaron Kalloor (played by Riz Ahmed), is a social media platform whose intentions at first glance appear to be ever-so-innocent and normal.
In reality, it is power and full-spectrum surveillance of everyone, at all times that they’re focused on. This fresh information however is crucial, containing the facts about Bourne’s father’s involvement with Operation Treadstone from all those years before. A weak and somewhat lazy premise to give Bourne a reason to fire back at the organization, but hey, at least it got the ball rolling. From then on, the titular character is on a fiery mission to unravel the veracity of what he had previously discovered, and what he was recently told.
What really got my adrenaline and excitement pumping when I first watched The Bourne Identity was the genuine unknowing of the truth behind the two bullets drawn out of this man’s back – a man who, while sitting in a diner, knew the license plate numbers of all the cars in the car park, knew that the waitress was left-handed and the exact weight of the man sitting by the bar. The mystery and suspense were real and almost painful. Never before had I seen someone whose memory was almost all but wiped out, but whose muscle memory was on point, able to take down thugs and avoid cops by maneuvering his way through the windy, narrow and steep streets of Zurich with his little red bag and his borrowed little red car. He needed to know the truth of who he really was. As did I. In a very serious way.
Sadly, in 2016’s Jason Bourne, most of the magic that mystified audiences worldwide had vanished.
I had already witnessed Bourne’s blind journey towards vision once more. I had already found out that he was actually David Webb. Show me something new. Show me something original.
It isn’t that this was a “bad” film per se. In fact, when watching it in isolation to the trilogy and thinking of it as a generic action film, you’re actually in for a really fun and exciting time. But for me, someone who has loved that fantastic trilogy for so many years now, it’s hard not to nitpick and wish they had made a better Bourne film – not necessarily a better film in general.
While the plot falls short and can be disappointing, the action sequences are far from that.
Intense, visceral and finely shot and put together, these heavy-hitting scenes make up for the poor dialogue and lazy story. The riot scenes in Syntagma Square in Athens and on The Strip in Las Vegas are jam-packed with explosions, bullets flying in every direction and lots and lots of people, some even getting in the way as collateral.
The performances overall were fairly commendable. With the Bourne character, father-time didn’t show his face too much, as Damon pulled through with an old-school style performance, his brut and swagger never wavering. Heather Lee (played by Alicia Vikander), the CIA agent in charge of bringing Bourne back, was fantastic. She demonstrated qualities of compassion and understanding, seeing Bourne as a person with his own emotions and feelings rather than a mere number, a tool, a cog in the machine.
It’s quite hard for me to consider the Bourne franchise as now having five films.
While The Bourne Legacy hit the mark as an alright action film, that’s about all it will ever be for me. Just like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It doesn’t count.
Jason Bourne makes shallow attempts to out-Bourne the originals, and fails. The adaptations of the Robert Ludlum novels were so groundbreaking in the spy/action/thriller genre, that almost everything that followed could be dubbed “not as good as The Bourne ______”. The never-before-seen or felt ‘wow factor’ didn’t transfer over to the latest film, lagging behind with its Attack of the Clones quality dialogue (okay fine, it’s not that bad!) and idle plot. Not to forget, the social media element of the story was out of line and unnecessary for a Bourne film. Let’s face it. If there’s one thing you’re going to love about this movie it’s the awesome action scenes. If the sounds of that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you may be better off saving your money and waiting for Suicide Squad next week.
“I know who I am. I remember everything.”
My rating: 7/10