by Christopher Poli
James Bond, Ethan Hunt, Jason Bourne. The age of the spy thriller is alive and well and the trick to keeping these franchises fresh is developing new and interesting story lines. It’s a shame that the newest installment into the Bourne Franchise, the self-titled Jason Bourne didn’t get the memo.
Paul Greengrass returns for his third Bourne installment while Matt Damon reprises his role as Jason Bourne for the fourth time. The pair previously teamed up on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Here, the actor/director combo deliver another spy thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Mentally you spend the entire movie wondering who is working what angle, and just what is the end game? Unfortunately for “Jason Bourne” it’s the same formula used previously.
The movie begins when Bourne is again forced out of hiding due to circumstances beyond his control. He then spends the majority of the movie staying one step ahead of the evil CIA forces that want him eliminated. Sound familiar?
Julia Stiles reprises her role of Nicky Parsons, the now disenfranchised former CIA agent working with a global hacking syndicate to expose U.S. government secrets. Parsons, in her quest for the truth about another CIA Black Ops Program, once again enlists Bourne’s help, dragging him back into a world he had long left behind.
Tommy Lee Jones, as CIA Director Robert Dewey, is another in a slew of Bourne interchangeable bad guys (which have been played by some fantastic actors, including Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and David Strathairn). A plug and play of evil CIA big wigs could easily be plucked out of one installment and dropped into any of the others without missing a beat.
Despite solid performances from Damon and Jones, Stiles phones in her performance. The enthusiasm she has previously brought to this role is non-existent here, and ultimately she falls victim to predictable formulaic storytelling. The newcomer to this franchise is Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander in the role of Heather Lee, an up-and-coming CIA cyber sleuth who is the single reason the CIA has any chance of tracking down Bourne and Parsons. Unfortunately for Vikander’s character, the movie does little to flesh out her motives or what exactly her overall interest in the pursuit of Bourne really is. Vikander is wasted in this role and her character is stiff and unlikable, bringing little to the story.
Other spy franchises such as Mission: Impossible have found ways to re-invent the characters and story by keeping the material and the situations fresh. Tom Cruise seems like he’s had several different incarnations of Ethan Hunt, and the five M:I movies are all very different in scope and storytelling. This is where Jason Bourne fails. While the situation and dilemma is new in Jason Bourne, it doesn’t shake that “been there done that” feeling.
Jason Bourne does provide fans with arguably the best car chase scene of any of the Bourne movies. This exciting adrenaline fueled chase up and down the Las Vegas strip provides the excitement and action you’ve come to expect from these movies. However, when it’s over, you’re left with this feeling like you’d seen this before, and you have, 4 times to be exact.
In the end, Jason Bourne is predictable. Take one reluctant hero, add a government conspiracy, throw in a killer car chase, and close it out with an ambiguous ending and you have a proven winner. But at what point does the proven winner, lose? At what point do you go see a movie and feel like you’ve seen it before? This is the dilemma the Bourne franchise currently faces.