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Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne movies demand that audiences understand something from the outset: these movies are smarter than you are. Don’t try to figure them out. Enjoy the fantastic action sequences. Enjoy the car chases. Enjoy the smoothly cool and stoically silent Matt Damon. Just don’t try to figure out exactly what’s going on because, well, it’s over your head.
Or, perhaps, proceedings simply don’t make that much sense upon reflection.
Don’t misunderstand: I very much like the Bourne movies. The family rewatched the first three featuring Damon. We skipped Jeremy Renner’s The Bourne Legacy as its connections to Jason Bourne seemed limited (The Bourne Ultimatum was my favorite.). I liked the latest, Jason Bourne, as well. However, after watching all four of these films, I was left with the feeling that I remembered the originals to be better than they were and I wanted the new film to be better than it was. I also defy anyone to concisely explain the plots of any of these four movies. Bonus points if you can differentiate them from one another.
Jason Bourne is a good summer action movie featuring a stellar cast. Beyond the aforementioned Matt Damon (who is, unfortunately, only called up to express the emotional range of a turnip here), returning Bourne player Julia Stiles, the venerable Tommy Lee Jones and one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood at the moment, Alicia Vikander, are featured. And all are very good, though I have to admit that some of the events surrounding Vikander’s Heather Lee (a name I had to look up because it made so little impact on me) seemed pretty far fetched given the character’s age. These are solid actors. They are in a Bourne movie and they deliver what’s expected.
So does director Paul Greengrass, especially in the set piece department. The movie is bracketed by a couple of terrific action sequences, the most stunning of which was actually filmed in Las Vegas. Greengrass has the ability that sometimes escapes other directors: he can stage car chases and fisticuffs in such a way that the audience can follow the action. It’s a gift, really, and I understand why Damon said he would return to the role only if Greengrass was a part of the equation. The staging and the action aren’t what’s wrong with this movie.
And that’s overstated. There really isn’t anything wrong with Jason Bourne, there’s just not that much right with it, either. There’s nothing particularly creative or smart, as we’ve told ourselves we expect from these movies. There are revelations, of a sort, but they don’t feel original. Bourne is chased by another asset (actually identified as “The Asset” in the credits) and while it’s metamusing to see Vincent Cassell chase Matt Damon around Las Vegas again (Ocean’s Twelve, anyone?), it’s a plot we’ve seen before. The entirety of the movie feels that way. Switch out Tommy Lee Jones for David Stratharian for Brian Cox. Swap Alicia Vikander for Franka Potente. Substitute Julia Stiles for, well, Julia Stiles. Rinse and repeat.
I enjoyed Jason Bourne, but I expected more. Much more. It’s a good movie. I wanted great.
JASON BOURNE receives THREE out of a possible FIVE demolished cars.