Jason Bourne

It seemed like very good news that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass decided to return for another installment of the Jason Bourne saga.  The series has certainly had its ups and downs but every installment so far has been watchable and those two have been responsible for most of the ups.  In this one they turn their attention away from Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross and back to Matt Damon’s original super soldier.

What fascinates me the most about this series is that on the surface this is a comic book premise.  A government created super soldier is basically the same idea as Captain America.  The difference is that Greengrass and his screenwriters have written, shot and edited the films like they were LeCarre adaptations.    Not ever having been a secret government assassin, I have no idea how accurate these things really are but they certainly feel real.  The convoluted plotlines and cynical depictions of bureaucratic infighting provide a sophisticated setting to the exciting set pieces.  Also the grainy film stock and hand held cameras give the film a documentary like look and feel that adds to the illusion of realism.

When the story begins Bourne is at a low point.  He’s still on the run and still feels remorse for the things he did as a government created and controlled weapon.  But he’s gradually becoming aware that something is missing in his understanding of what was done to him in the Treadstone project.  They told him that his father was killed by terrorists, but fellow fugitive Nicky Parsons, played by Julia Stiles, contacts him during an austerity riot in Athens, Greece and informs him that that was not the case.  She also tells him that Robert Dewey, the new head of the CIA, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is starting up a new ominous surveillance program that has the capacity to watch everybody all the time.

Bourne springs into action with predicable mayhem.  As he looks for answers, he is chased around the globe by Dewey’s agent, Heather Lee, played by Alicia Vikvander and another super soldier known only as the asset, played by Vincent Cassel.  The asset was one of the super soldiers who was compromised when Bourne exposed the existence of Treadstone to the world in an earlier installment.  He was also the operative who killed Bourne’s father.

So this is personal for both of these men who by training and physiological tinkering are not supposed to have emotions.

Damon does a good job showing that Bourne is changing as the memories of his past return to him.  And he’s not happy about it.  He’s a weapon that has suddenly developed a conscience.  His quandary is that he can’t figure out what he wants to do about it.

Tommy Lee Jones is in this which means he was great.  Vincent Cassel manages to portray a man who has been grievously betrayed in only a few minutes of screen time.  And Alicia Vikvander turns in another of a growing list of great performances as an ambitious bureaucrat who occasionally has principles.

The problem with Jason Bourne is the same one as with most of the recent installments of long running series.  It’s the same plot.  Bourne surfaces, escapes a few traps, exposes a nefarious government plot and the current leadership of the CIA is eliminated.  The filmmakers stubbornly refuse to explore any other aspect of their premise.  In that respect Captain America is a better series.

Sure this is an exciting film and I was on the edge of my seat during the action sequences.  But I’m starting to realize that this is more because of the cinematography and the editing than it is from any concern for the characters.  I really do want to see something new in these series.

So Jason Bourne is not the best film in the series, nor is it the worst.  What makes this disappointing is the talent involved in this project is capable of so much more.

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