There’s not (that) much to be said about this piece of thriller film generica.
Films like these are dependable doses of adrenaline and when done well, they deliver the goods in a way that satiates that craving for vicarious excitement. Such films don’t have to be judged by the usual criteria reserved for films in general – they just have to do what they do well.
Jason Bourne does what it does well, for the most part. The plot is a thin rehash – pretty much another excuse for Bourne to go on the run and display his super-soldier physicality and intelligence. But the film does manage to orchestrate some masterfully tense and interesting setpieces, mostly by leveraging shiny new surveillance technologies that play an abidingly fresh (if somewhat jejunely CSI-esque) role in the cat-and-mouse game between Bourne and his pursuers. Not all the set pieces are like that – there’s a car chase scene early on in the film that could have benefited from some massive shortening – but things like the London set piece, where Bourne uses his resourcefulness to avoid surveillance and rendezvous with a man who holds the keys to his past, are tense and well done.
One hitch to the otherwise competent action package is director Paul Greengrass’ regrettable overuse the incessant shakycam, which oftentimes feels less like a deliberate artistic choice than a matter of “oops, we forgot to bring our dollies”. A lot of scenes that shouldn’t be shakycam are, and often are in a way that offends the viewer sensibility – like how sometimes a shot will push its snide way into an actor’s face until it envelops the entire screen and you can almost see the pores, and then recede shakily out and swing out to somebody else. But I guess you get used to it after a few nauseating minutes.
The performances are your standard stoic posturing – Matt Damon as the hypercompetent Bourne is sleepwalking his grim hero with a tortured past shtick by now. Alicia Vikander channels her best emotionless Jennifer Lawrence impersonation as the CIA analyst with the Stanford degree and big ambitions (her American accent is weird and disconcerting, though). Tommy Lee Jones as the smarmy CIA director is probably the most entertaining because of the cragginess of Jones’ face, which is basically the omega point towards which all thespians’ gobs aspire. And – poor Vincent Cassel, his long face making him such a good fit for the one-dimensionally villainous role that he is put into, as the Asset that dogs Bourne’s footsteps trying and failing to kill him at every turn.
I also mentioned the whole tech part, which is probably an attempt to update the movie and give it a more contemporary sheen – it has been 10 years since the last (actual) Bourne movie, after all, and an equivalent number of years has apparently passed in Bourne-land. The shiny surveillance tech parallelizes with some plot strand concerning the CIA’s attempt to implant code into a social network company (that they funded) in order to enable global surveillance in an ostensible bid to keep Americans safe. As I said, however, the weird way in which technology is depicted – as a kind of black-box magic plot driver that can do anything a la CSI makes the attempt at thematic relevance a little unconvincing. It’s the standard jejune technology as Promethean fire/double edged sword metaphor that usually signals that a franchise has got a bit long in the tooth.
But I digress too much from the original proposition, which is that Jason Bourne is an action film first and foremost, and should be appreciated for its great setpieces. Just don’t go in expecting an abiding treatise on the ethics of mass government surveillance or anything.
I give this: 3.5 out of 5 incriminating dashcams