Jason Bourne (2016) Review – A Disappointing, Unoriginal Mess

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In Jason Bourne (2016), Matt Damon reunites with director Paul Greengrass to serve audiences with a dose of post-Snowden cynicism about government surveillance and privacy. Damon returns after an eight-year hiatus from the blockbuster series, which many have suggested was the inspiration for the much more grounded and realistic tone of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. However, in stark contrast to the previous Bourne films which had a sense of purpose, and a storyline that kept audiences on the edge of their seats, the latest instalment feels like a wayward, slow-moving train that has lost all its steam.

Jason Bourne (2016) lacks heart, in every sense of the word. The only thing that added any humanity to the otherwise cardboard characters was Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons. But her appearance was so short, that by the end, you find it difficult to reconcile why she was given such limited screen time. Alicia Vikander was unfortunately the least believable CIA operative since she herself played an MI6 operative in 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The entire movie is unfortunately a rehash of the previous films in the series, from storyline, to the characters. We have Tommy Lee Jones in the Chris Cooper/Brian Cox /David Straithairn role of sinister middle-aged male intelligence chief; Alicia Vikander in the Joan Allen role of female CIA subordinate who comes to believe that Bourne is a good guy; Vincent Cassel in the Clive Owen/Karl Urban/Édgar Ramírez role, and for the outro, Moby plays ‘Extreme Ways’ to round off the nostalgia.

It’s hard to imagine how the execs at Universal failed to miss the clear parallels (I mean, self-plagiarism) between this, and the previous films. Greengrass and his writing partner Christopher Rouse must have really just ticked the boxes of the previous instalments: Bourne is on the run, again. He’s struggling to remember details of his murky past, again. There’s a menacing European assassin on his trail, again. The U.S. government is developing a questionable espionage program, again. Sound familiar?

Nothing new really happens in Jason Bourne that cannot be explained on the back of a bus ticket stub. The action sequences are not ingenious or spectacular enough to really satisfy even the most die-hard fans. The film tries at some ill-executed attempts to address contemporary issues of surveillance and privacy by bringing in a Julian-Assange-like figure (Vinzenz Kiefer) and a young tech billionaire (Riz Ahmed) in a reluctant alliance with the CIA. But, it all falls short due to a plot (about pretty much nothing) that could very well have been repurposed to be a Seinfeld episode.

Greengrass’ shaky cam action scenes, and the follow-focus shots can only keep the audiences interested for so long, before the wafer-thin material his film is standing on, starts to give in. Rehashed plot threads aside, Jason Bourne, as a character is not explored any further than the previous three movies. Fans of the franchise may want to avoid this retelling.

Rating: 2.5/5

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