I’m honestly surprised — and wholly disappointed — by how egregiously awful Paul Greengrass’ Jason Bourne is. I’m someone who really enjoyed the first three entries in the Bourne series and acknowledge how they pulled the spy genre into the 21st century. I even enjoyed the mostly forgettable attempt at a Bourne spinoff (sans the franchise’s star, Matt Damon), The Bourne Legacy (2012). To come into this version and find it so completely devoid of tension or any sense of verve is a shock, even as someone who understands diminishing returns. The film reunites Damon and director Greengrass (who made The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007), and the results are a wet blanket of an action movie. The reasons why are numerous and terminal.
Let’s start with the plot. The film opens with government-bred superspy Jason Bourne laying low in Greece, making a living as a pit fighter and vaguely wallowing in his own existentialism. It’s not until his old buddy Nicky (a wooden Julia Stiles) hacks into a CIA database and tells Bourne that he needs to see what’s in these stolen files that he comes out of hiding. This is a bad move. The U.S. government is soon after him, and Bourne is back on the run.
What was nice about the first three Bourne films is that, while each was able to stand on its own to an extent, there was also a story arc: our amnesiac spy trying to regain his memories and eventually doing so. With that tidied up in The Bourne Ultimatum, the new film has little to do. So Greengrass and longtime Bourne co-writer Christopher Rouse give our protagonist some daddy issues and a flimsy revenge plotline. The problem here (which was also an issue with The Bourne Legacy) is that it lacks enough scope. The stakes are small, and there’s no reason to invest any emotion. Bourne’s father (Gregg Henry) was never a huge aspect of these movies, and Jason going all-out to avenge his death and uncover the reasons behind it feels flat and unimportant.
This might be somewhat forgivable if it weren’t for how mind-numbingly dull the rest of the film is. The conspiratorial, grabbed-from-the-headlines aspects of the movie — the surveillance state and the tech industry — feel flimsy. There’s a lack of honest ideas here, something that crops up in the physical action of the film. A lot of what happens in the movie is little more than various characters typing into computers. As someone currently typing into a computer, trust me, this isn’t exciting. Occasionally, Bourne will fight someone, but Greengrass’ signature handheld, nausea-inducing camerawork makes this more of a theoretical happening. There’s also a sense that this series is now trying to catch up with the current trend of high-volume property damage, and much of the violence has no purpose (specifically the high body count and aimlessness of the film’s climax), making Jason Bourne feel idiotic. The intelligence of the previous Damon films have been abandoned for a lot of sound and fury. Even if you’re a fan of the other films in this series, there’s little reason to see this iteration unless you want to revel in the morbid curiosity of seeing just how far these movies have suddenly fallen. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and brief strong language.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Carmike 10, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher, Epic of Hendersonville.