He has been hailed as the thinking-man’s action hero, and now he’s making his return to the big screen. The fifth film in the Bourne series, named after its central hero, promises a return to what made the franchise great; if only it promised to be entertaining.
At a CIA outpost in Iceland, rogue operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has downloaded a number of highly-sensitive documents related to the ominous Treadstone program. Well aware of the danger she has placed herself in, Nicky locates and makes contact with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) who is now making a living as a bare-knuckle fighter in poverty-stricken Greece.
Meanwhile at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) has been tracking Nicky across Europe and is tasked with retrieving the stolen documents at all costs. Heather has to ensure that Bourne doesn’t receive the Treadstone files, all while dealing with her belligerent director (Tommy Lee Jones), an unnamed agent (Vincent Cassel) with a score to settle and Bourne’s intuition.
After the disappointing response to The Bourne Legacy, the executives at Universal Pictures were desperate to win back the fanbase they had lost. First, they brought back Paul Greengrass, who directed the second and third films in the series. After Greengrass was secured, Damon was then signed to play the titular protagonist and made a producer.
As one would expect, trademarks and motifs of the franchise are present throughout, including the “shaky cam” action sequences and rapid editing – whether or not you appreciate this will depend entirely on your opinion of the previous movies. Where changes have been made is in the story, which is written to reflect the current political climate. Trouble is, the material presented is far from compelling.
The film discusses issues such as government surveillance and the value of privacy, two themes which are fast becoming clichéd. So many movies have used these plot devices, much of them doing a far better job – Enemy of the State, a film which was released eighteen years ago, is one such example. Additionally, character development is sorely lacking, while the motivations of the individuals aren’t made clear.
But the most glaring problem with Jason Bourne is how dull it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have never been so bored watching an action film. How is this even possible? Shouldn’t the viewer be entertained, rather than cured of insomnia? Not even the climactic car chase through Las Vegas (which, by the way, is really good) can alleviate the boredom present through much of the second act.
If the Bourne series is to become great again, it needs to take a long, hard look at itself. And then it should take a look at the other blockbusters being released today. Where once franchises tried to mirror the grim, humourless tone of Bourne, now they are more upbeat. They have showstoppers, twists, thrills and, most importantly, heart; this movie has anything but.
Despite the welcome presence of Damon and Greengrass, nothing can save the fact that Jason Bourne is boring beyond belief. Instead of focusing on what made the franchise popular, it should have focused on what audiences really want: to be entertained.