Movie Review: Jason Bourne

I do not get the Bourne movies. The action is okay, but what else is there? The overarching story is dull spy fiction about an assassin gaining a conscience while his handlers try to kill him. I know without the CIA after him the narrative would be boring, but does the Company really operate like Columbian drug cartels? Are they so worried about loose ends they are not going to attempt diplomacy? It is such a lazy plot device and the lukewarm action does not help. Was the fifth installment an improvement or more of the same?

After an old acquaintance returns with information on his father and the program that created him Jason, played by Matt Damon, comes out of hiding to investigate. His reemergence sets off alarms at the CIA and Agent Lee, played by Alicia Vikander, makes it her mission to apprehend him.

Imagine Winter Soldier without everything cool and you get Jason Bourne. From the themes of government surveillance to moral ambiguity, it is the same film absent Captain America and the great fight scenes. Both movies would be indistinguishable if the latter were not a boring monotone slog. Instead of caring about the characters and wanting to see more action, I wanted Bourne to just get to the point and finish.

The whole thing is build-up, more build-up, and then a fight scene before the process repeats itself about four times. Because each plot point is a vignette of story and action, it kills the overall build-up to the finale. You are inundated with all this stuff in a run-of-the-mill fashion that whatever you may feel is disarmed. The tension that comes with a decent story that takes the time to build towards a monolithic endgame is nonexistent because Bourne divides its tension. At the climax, when you are supposed to feel the scenes prior led to this moment, there is nothing.

The storytelling and tone hurt the film just as much. You are constantly cutting between the CIA, Jason, then to something different, and back to the CIA ad nauseam. Everyone is either talking on a phone or looking at a computer with no sense of urgency. It is such a technical movie that everything happens in a clinical fashion. We have to see each time the characters talk on the phone or look at a computer so we know they know what is going on. We cannot just see what happens naturally or in a creative way. Every detail no matter how insignificant must be shown to annoy the audience and drag out the runtime.

Monotone is an apt description because the characters are either pissed off, emotionless, or angry for no reason. There was no humor, no sadness, or anything to induce a feeling other than agitation. There is no levity except for a line of dialog in which Tommy Lee Jones changed his voice slightly. Even if your film is horror you need emotion because it makes the characters seem human and not bored robots. Sicario, the most nihilistic movie ever, had more emotion than five minutes of Bourne.

The movie’s biggest problem is the cinematography because it gave me a headache. I do not know what director Paul Greengrass’s problem is, but he seems incapable of holding the camera straight in the midst of action, and unable to not use close-ups. On top of that, the scenes are chaotic and cluttered enough that the added shaking compounds the fatigue. I could not tell what was happening while my head pounded until I came home. Then you have the stiff close-ups of everyone’s dull expressions as they read lines like they were at a depressing Catholic mass.

If all of the Bourne movies are like this, then I am glad I never got into the series. If you are fan please explain to me why these films are so popular. Aside from the headache I have gained nothing from watching Jason Bourne. I would say it was a waste of time if I was not reminded of how much more awesome Winter Soldier is in comparison.

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