‘Jason Bourne’: First Reviews Praise Familiar Action in an Otherwise Unnecessary Sequel

     July 26, 2016


Matt Damon and writer/director Paul Greengrass return for their third outing together in the Jason Bourne franchise, itself the fifth film adapted from the Robert Ludlum/Eric Van Lustbader novels. Fans of Jason Bourne (Damon) might have thought the character gone from the screen for good after the events of the final trilogy film, The Bourne Ultimatum, an assumption seemingly supported by Jeremy Renner’s entrance as the Bourne-like original character Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy. However, Universal wanted to continue the Bourne train with the title character himself, and to do that, they had to get Greengrass and Damon back onboard.

And yet, not all reviewers are giving the duo a warm welcome, even as they praise their previous work. Early reviews are divided in just how much they enjoyed the film, with those on the positive side talking up the film’s action sequences while reviewers on the opposite end of the spectrum decrying these same elements, along with the film’s disinterested performances and lack of an engaging plot. Interestingly enough, fans and critics have been in lockstep in their opinions throughout the Bourne franchise, so it will be interesting to see how general audiences respond to Jason Bourne when it opens this Friday. We’ll have our own review from Matt Goldberg later this week. In the meantime, check out a sampling of early reviews below.


Image via Universal Pictures

IndieWire’s review of the “useless sequel” praises the first three films in the Bourne franchise while noting the apparent disinterest by Greengrass and Damon in Jason Bourne:

“Ultimatum” ended about as cleanly as this saga could: Bourne, a CIA assassin who goes rogue, figures out most of the details surrounding his past (including his real name, David Webb), confronts the murky government officials responsible for his lost years, and vanishes into anonymity. “Jason Bourne” finds a handy reason to rediscover the lost soul: The government wants him back. For much of “Jason Bourne,” he sees no reason to spend a moment’s notice entertaining this suggestion, and his evasiveness becomes a handy metaphor for the obvious disinterest by Damon and Greengrass in telling another “Bourne” story.

EW’s more positive review, despite the “intriguing but underused Alicia Vikander,” laments only the poor timing of certain plot elements and shallow exploration of Jason Bourne’s themes:

Director Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93) has always had a taste for the topical and political, and his third Bourne outing augments the usual truth-and-justice talking points with a strenuously current nod to digital privacy issues via a Zuckerberg-like social-media mogul (Riz Ahmed). If anything, he underplays those assets, shorting deeper story development for exotic zip codes, bang-up fisticuffs, and adrenalized chase scenes (one of which delivers a level of casual collateral damage that feels, after the events in Nice, ill-timed at best). Jason Bourne has already given us a hero who transcends two dimensions. We just need to know more about what he’s fighting for.


Image via Universal Pictures

The Playlist echoes some of the same complaints, essentially calling Jason Bourne very much a Bourne film, but nothing beyond that:

Accelerating forward with supercharged determination, “Jason Bourne,” the fifth installment of the spy action thriller series, might be a muscular and visceral chapter in the ‘Bourne’ saga, but it’s also a familiar collision. Perhaps less acrobatic overall and more of a bruising affair, both physically and, to a lesser extent, emotionally, while more brawny in its action, very little else has changed.

THR warmed to the picture a little better, right up until the flawed third-act action sequence:

Up until a narratively implausible and logistically ridiculous climactic motorcycle chase through Vegas that feels like a sop to the Fast & Furious crowd, Jason Bourne is an engrossing reimmersion in the violent and mysterious world of Matt Damon’s shadowy secret op. With director Paul Greengrass compulsively cutting the almost incessant action to the absolute bone in his trademark fashion and some solid new characters stirred in, Universal’s franchise refresher should have no problem being re-embraced by longtime series fans nine years on.


Image via Universal Pictures

Empire’s four-star review is the most enamored of the bunch, praising the up-tempo action pieces strung together by a relatively bare-bones plot:

[I]t’s a testament to the hurtling sense of purpose at the heart of this visceral, uncompromising fifth instalment in the spy franchise that, as everyone’s favourite amnesiac assassin brings his brand of improvised chaos to Las Vegas, you find you’ve completely forgotten why he had to go away in the first place…


Yes, Jason Bourne basically amounts to a trio of action set-pieces elegantly strung together. But who really cares when they’re this impressive?

The most brutal review (so far) comes courtesy of Mashable:

The return of Matt Damon and writer/director Paul Greengrass is a soulless, sensually deadening time-suck, like watching a stranger play a video game you used to think was fun while someone vigorously shakes the screen, or perhaps your head.


That’s what it feels like walking out — like someone just batted you about the the ears and neck for two hours while constantly reminding you how scary things are in the world.

Will you be checking out Jason Bourne this weekend? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

For more on Jason Bourne, get caught up on our most-recent coverage below:


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