Jason Bourne is back. Really back. Like, exactly the same as the last time we saw him, except a little older and, if you can believe it, a little more morose. While it’s good to see a favorite old character again, it’s that very resistance to change that prevents Jason Bourne from becoming more than a shadow of the franchise’s former glory, repeating old beats, character arcs, and music cues to diminished effect. And unfortunately, that seems to be the general consensus among critics (You can read Matt’s full review here), with the film currently sitting at a rotten 55% on Rotten Tomatoes.
As a diehard of the Bourne franchise, it honestly pains me to say all this. Hell, I even like The Bourne Legacy for what it is. But unfortunately — as is wont to happen when the original creative talent returns to a property a decade later — Jason Bourne is too busy staying the same to become something greater…or to even truly catch up with the times. While Bourne’s character regressive, looking even further into the past to concoct some unnecessary daddy issues, he’s situated in a new world with 10 years of technological development and Greengrass pulls that new setting through to the story, just not in any way that really matters.
It’s an act of internet espionage that sets off Jason Bourne‘s narrative. When Julia Stiles‘ Nicky Parsons hacks into the CIA’s database and pulls the files detailing their black ops, from Treadstone and Blackbriar all the way to the newest incarnation, Iron Hand, she puts herself and Bourne in the crosshairs of yet another ruthless, corrupt CIA Director. This time it’s Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), and while his right hand woman, Alicia Vikander‘s ace CIA agent Heather Lee, is hacking her little butterfly-clip wearing heart out — remotely wiping Bourne’s encrypted data and using GPS to infallibly navigate The Asset (Vincent Cassell) — Dewey is setting up a new means of massive government back end of a hugely popular app.
And none of it has anything to do with Bourne’s arc. But for a coarse, overwraught coincidence, he is entirely removed from the contemporary narrative of the film, as his quest for identity drags him ever deeper into the past. Because of that narrative disconnect, the would-be commentary ultimately doesn’t have anything to say. It has the trappings of a film rooted in the political and societal reality contemporary America, but none of them add up to anything more than intellectual window dressing. So, while the film sets up some attractive and well executed set pieces (this is Paul Greengrass after all, though admittedly, the shaky cam has lost its effect after a decade of rip offs), and Damon is still commanding in the role that made him a superstar, Jason Bourne never becomes more than the sum of its parts.
But that’s just my two cents on Jason Bourne. What did you guys think? Did it live up to your expectations? Can Matt Damon still kick all the ass? Do Damon and Greengrass still have the magic? Does the shaky-cam still work? What do you wish was done differently? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments.