Jason Bourne (2016)

  • Time: 123 min
  • Genre: Action | Thriller
  • Director: Paul Greengrass
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel


Matt Damon returns to his most iconic role in Jason Bourne. Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, once again joins Damon for the next chapter of Universal Pictures’ Bournefranchise, which finds the CIA’s most lethal former operative drawn out of the shadows. For Jason Bourne, Damon is joined by Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel and Tommy Lee Jones, while Julia Stiles reprises her role in the series. Frank Marshall again produces alongside Jeffrey Weiner for Captivate Entertainment, and Greengrass, Damon, Gregory Goodman and Ben Smith also produce. Based on characters created by Robert Ludlum, the film is written by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse.


  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5 )


    IN BRIEF: Action takes a precedent over storytelling in this taut thriller.

    GRADE: B-

    SYNOPSIS: Jason Bourne is call to action once more as he fight cyber spies.
    JIM’S REVIEW: Jason Bourne is born yet again in Paul Greengrass’ latest installment to the profitable series. The death toll rises and so does the moviegoer’s pulse rate in this taut but somewhat predictable espionage thriller. The film shows off the director’s virtuosic style of filmmaking. His visual sleight of hand remains impressive, but it is still The Emperor New Clothes…all flash but no real substance. Still, Mr. Greengrass is such a fine craftsman and his vision revitalizes the franchise with such needed verve and energy to hide the film’s major flaw: its screenplay (by Christopher Rouse and the director himself).

    One never gets bored with the non-stop action. That is basically all that there is. As with many spy films, there is an overabundance of chases and shoot-outs which happen in many global destinations like Greece, Germany, and England. These set pieces make up Jason Bourne.  Yet one yearns for a credence of logic and story that could simply connect these riveting action scenes with an engrossing narrative. That doesn’t exist in this film chapter which hampers its overall impact.

    Our hero remains a man of few words (and so is the director for that matter). In Jason Bourne, this rogue agent is brought back from hiding into the world of spies, counter intelligence, and cyber warfare. The film succeeds in its depiction of espionage on a grand scale and Greenberg’s images are first-rate.

    Matt Damon is all buffed and ripped in the title role. His character’s fighting skills are evident as is his quick thinking and the actor is solid (in many ways) in his role. But it is the other characters that remain hollow and sketchy. The script has too many illogical circumstances and exposition that defies explanation. (Just a fewof the numerous leaps of logic to ponder: How does the globetrotter Bourne get through airport security so easily and how does he afford the airfares with his paltry jobs? If he is so savvy an agent, then why doesn’t he realize that his whereabouts can be easily traced whenever he uses any form of technology?)

    Tommy Lee Jones (overdoing the evil bit), a typecast Seymour Cassel, and Alicia Vikander (underwhelming) never bring much depth to their one-dimensional shady characters. Julia Stiles in a smaller part, as Bourne’s sidekick, Nicky Parsons, is back and their chemistry again is strong if short-lived. Riz Ahmed as a corrupted computer CEO is given too little to do.

    But with the Bourne formula, it is the action and mayhem that takes center stage. The film is a series of chases linked to each other with some computer technology and double crosses thrown in for good measure. Conspiracy theories and talks of governmental paranoia helps to keep everything so topical.

    Despite some overall reservations, there is literally a memorable bang-up action sequence on the streets of Vegas that leads to an exciting chase through an underground garage that is so well staged and concisely edited. (Kudos to Christopher Rouse, yes, the same co-author of the film doing double duty, whose editing makes the film consistently better than it actually is.) Actually the film’s sparse style and technical expertise is its main asset…it surely isn’t the minimal dialog and monotonous plotting.

    The strengths are in its production values and the director’s artistry, which outweighs its weakness in storytelling. Jason Bourne may be intellectually inert and not totally fulfilling, but the film is a visceral joy ride.

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  • Did the identity of Jason Bourne ever truly matter? The Bourne Trilogy – The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum – hinged on this MacGuffin but the point of Bourne was not who he was, but rather what he was. A riff of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bourne was a seemingly ordinary man who discovered he was a killing machine recruited and trained by those lurking in the darkest corners of the government.

    At the time of The Bourne Identity’s release in 2002, the durable Bond franchise was in a bit of a crisis, having reached its cartoonish nadir with 1999’s Die Another Day. Bond was showing his age, and was bordering on being laughable. Mission: Impossible had presented audiences with another alternative in the form of Ethan Hunt who, along with Bourne, stood in stark contrast to 007. Hunt and Bourne were grittier, relatively more rooted in realism – their successes showed that there were others who could replicate and even improve upon the formula. When Bond finally resurfaced in 2006’s Casino Royale, it was a colder, edgier, more brutal Bond – one that finally felt of his time and not out of it and, Daniel Craig’s casting aside, the revamp felt influenced by what both Doug Liman had done in The Bourne Identity and especially what Paul Greengrass wrought in The Bourne Supremacy.

    Which is why Jason Bourne is a mixed blessing. It’s a wholly unnecessary outing, considering how The Bourne Ultimatum resolved Bourne’s character arc, and that sense of pointlessness permeates the film and exposes its recycling of plot and characters. That said, this fifth installment (if one counts 2012’s The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner) is still a tremendously solid piece of filmmaking, breathlessly paced, stripped yet adrenalised, with expertly staged action sequences that are relentless in their frenetic propulsion.

    It’s been nearly a decade since Bourne vanished into anonymity after confronting those responsible for his memory loss. Earning money by bare-knuckle fighting in rural Greece, he’s lured out of hiding by his former contact Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who has hacked into the CIA’s main frame and discovered two things: Bourne’s father was somehow involved in Treadstone, the black-ops program that recruited Bourne, and the existence of a new ultra-secretive operation that could be far worse than Treadstone. Nicky’s hack has been detected by CIA analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who reports her findings to agency director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), who believes his shady dealings could be exposed by this turn of events.

    Heather is one of the two new riveting characters that returning director Greengrass and co-screenwriter Christopher Rouse have created for this installment. Heather recalls Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), the Deputy Director with whom Bourne played cat and mouse in the second and third films. Like Pamela, Heather is highly capable and intelligent and more clear-eyed and perspicacious than those around her about Bourne’s intentions, even if she also underestimates the extent of Bourne’s capabilities. Heather is also ambitious and one of the fascinating elements of her character is how she is perpetually shifting allegiances to up her standing. If Bourne is a man of many identities but a blank slate, then Heather is a woman who assumes numerous masks to further solidify her name. Vikander is riveting throughout – seductive in her implorations to Bourne to come back into the fold, deferential without being obsequious to Dewey, but ever at the ready to seize opportunities for her own advancement.

    The other new character of note is simply referred to as the Asset (Vincent Cassel), another contract killer birthed from Treadstone and deployed by Dewey to hunt down and eliminate Bourne once and for all. Assets have been part and parcel of the Bourne films, from Clive Owen’s fatalistic Professor in the first film to Edgar Ramirez’s more blinkered Paz in the third entry. The Asset departs from the norm in that he bears a more personal motivation for accomplishing his latest mission and he is a more equal opponent to Bourne. When they finally meet in earnest, the ensuing brawl is brutal in its beauty and savage in its efficiency.

    More than anything else, the true stars of the Greengrass-helmed Bournes are the behind-the-scenes crew, notably cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and Rouse, who also serves as editor. They all come together to craft the jittery, sensory assault that is a pure distillation of film as image and motion. Bodies crash, punch, and pierce into frame like bullets. Faces blur and come into focus, limbs are almost symphonic in their rhythm of movement, the action is shredded, reassembled, granulated, and shattered once again.

    Greengrass and crew are arguably peerless when it comes to mounting complex and chaotic set pieces – the chase through Athens is exceptionally superlative, every corner crammed with protestors, riot police, high-pressure water nozzles, and contained conflagrations. Yet the action doesn’t have to be large-scale to impress – the relatively brief and simple sequence of Bourne falling off a roof is as gasp-inducing as the Las Vegas-set finale, a free-for-all pursuit that is outlandish in its escalations.

    If Jason Bourne is an inescapably superfluous installment, it at least provides another chance to appreciate Greengrass’ skills. For Greengrass, the pursuits are mating dances and their effectiveness lies in the prolonged foreplay as characters continually on the brink of convergence orbit this way and that before finally yielding to each other’s gravitational pull.

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  • The American government is so free and open that its filmmakers can continually expose its crookedness and authoritarianism. It was true in Tricky Dickie’s reign and it remains true in these troubled days of the Snowden and Assange exposures of government spying and betrayal.
    Of course, all that will change when Donald Trump is elected pres. Trumplethinskin (not my coinage, alas) has pledged to suppress the critical press and judiciary along with his more specifically racist niceties.
    Matt Damon’s newest incarnation of the alienated and amnesiac former intelligence agent exercises the public’s fear of government surveillance and an uncontrolled tyranny. The arch villain is the CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, profoundly and implacably wrinkled). We don’t know what happened to brothers Huey and Louie in our loss of Disney innocence.
    Innumerable lives are wasted and — perhaps worse — public and private automobiles demolished in the government’s ardor to protect itself by slashing away the individual’s rights, especially to privacy.
    In the spirit of the times — including our Hillary’s nomination — Bourne is abetted by two empowered women who play out the opposite themes of loyalty and betrayal. They also embody the hero’s alternative impulses — to return to the system or to remain a freer wheeling outsider.
    The film’s title sticks to the hero’s (assumed) name. The “Jason” is the heroic quester of the (non-Toronto) Argonauts and the (non-Trump) Fleece. And as Bourne means ‘journey’ the character unsure of his identity, history and purpose is on an endless quest to save himself, a journey without other purpose or clear destination. The trip is the thing. Expect sequels more.
    The word famously throbs in Hamlet:
    But that the dread of something after death,
    The undiscovered country from whose bourne
    No traveler returns, puzzles the will
    And makes us rather bear those ills we have
    Than fly to others that we know not of?
    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,…
    No danger of the latter in this non-stop action flick. The cast of thought quite pales amid the smashing action and spectacular computer screens.

  • If you’ve never seen, never heard of, the Bourne movies and you go see this one it’s still not going to be that much fun. They’ve found what they think is a formula and they do the same plot over and over. It has little entertainment value. You don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen next. You know what’s going to happen next. Doing it with different vehicles in different cities doesn’t make it new. It’s just repetition with a different accent. The movies are pretty much bloodless, wordless, and sexless. Sure people get killed but there’s very little evidence of it other than having someone fall down. There’s so little use for language, since it’s basically all chases and fights, the script isn’t used to advance the plot. Even Matt Damon was laughing about the fact that he only had twenty-five lines in this movie. There’s no sex and no swearwords so the movie can get a PG-13 rating which leaves it open to all those young boys who are going to think the crashes are soooo cool. It’s summer. It’s time for block busters and sequels. Good doesn’t seem to enter the formula.
    Paul Greengrass with Christopher Rouse are listed as the authors of the screenplay. I can only assume they have difficulty with English because they use so little language in the movie. There is a plot which, without all the crashing and running around, would take a half hour or so. Worse, we watched one of the other Bourne movies a few nights ago and the plot was the same. The characters were different but what they were doing and why they were doing it didn’t change. I’m actually not certain why they’re trying to keep this thing secret because there are so many characters who know about this black ops project.
    As a director Greengrass is following in the latest chosen method to shoot action movies these days which involves jiggly camera work to the point where the viewer can’t tell what’s going on sometimes. This method does not add anything to the excitement of the movie, it just confuses things visually. It’s a lazy way to do it because it doesn’t necessitate laying out shots so they function clearly adding a strong visual element to the story. This movie looks like it was shot, even in non-action scenes, by the camera person in one of those bouncy seats parents can hang in doorways to keep the baby busy.
    While I’m at it, David Buckley and John Powel are listed as the composers but if we all got together and chanted, “Dut, dut, dut, dut, dut.” at a speed just above our heart beat we’d get the same effect as the music offers to this film. It just used as a way to manipulate the audience’s heart beat and thus artificially make them feel more excited, until their hearts get used to that tempo and it has to be pushed up a little more.
    As far as the acting is concerned it is generally flat and two dimensional. The exceptions being Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles, and Alicia Vikander but they are given so very little in the script that what character depth they do attain comes from their delivery and not because of the director or the words. This movie is not going to ruin their careers but it certainly isn’t going to add to their chances of an Oscar this year. That’s going to have to come from somewhere else.
    I give Jason Bourne 2 explanations of where Bourne gets the money to hop around the world out of 5. If it’s going to be entertaining it has to be better written than this. Every good movie has to have a well written story at its base.

  • I went into this movie with very high expectations & it met them. It may not be the best of the Bourne movies with Matt Damon, but it belongs right there with them (certainly topping “Identity”). It is, by far, the best movie I’ve seen in a long time.

    It is a Paul Greengrass movie & you know what that means. Damon continues to thrill in playing the haunted Bourne for the 4th time (unlike Daniel Craig who clearly grew tired of playing Bond for the 4th time). Alicia Vikander & Tommy Lee Jones are great fun to watch in their roles. Vincent Cassell is a much better hit-man than many reviews would have you believe. Julia Stiles has the most heart wrenching scene. Riz Ahmed is well cast as a Silicon Valley magnate.

    The action is without parallel. Nobody does action like Greengrass — not even George Miller. The two major set pieces (in Greece & Vegas) are lengthy & astonishing. A car stunt in the Vegas chase may be the best I’ve ever seen on screen. (I sure as hell won’t tell what it is & let you discover it for yourself.) The editing is precision perfect –even in the non-action scenes– & there is less “shaky-cam” in any Greengrass film since “Bloody Sunday” (“shaky-cam” never bothered me).

    The adrenaline is all there, but what really makes this movie memorable are the issues it addresses with 21st Century privacy versus nation security versus the definition of patriotism. Yeah, that is all there. Is any wonder that Greengrass is circling a 3rd big screen adapt of “1984” as a future project?

    This new “Bourne” does not sacrifice intelligence at the altar of entertainment although it seemed to last half of its actual running time.

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