Jason Bourne: A Review

Posted: 08/02/2016 in Uncategorized

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Jason Bourne was a welcome return to the field of spy cinema for Matt Damon. It is a roll he can play in his sleep, yet he still brings due gravitas to it. Was JB the “best Bourne yet?” No. Was it “the worst movie of the summer” as one seriously biased reviewer on CBR indicated? Absolutely not. “Jason Bourne” reunites Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, a combo that worked wonders for “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum”. This film set in the shadow of the Snowden affair has a real world urgency; citing the absence of privacy via the notion that we are all being watched noting security and order over freedom.

Damon again sells it, this time as a post traumatic stress suffering version of himself, living on the fringes of society, “off the grid”. He makes a living as a bare knuckled fighter which plays to excellent effect when he steps up on the Macedonian border. Like Daniel Craig’s Bond, Damon is capable. His fight scenes are superb. You believe he is the stalwart fighter he appears to be. He is a machine. The program that created him made him so. His drive to continue, to live, is what informs his ongoing physicality. The movie’s energy is frenetic, frenzied in spots, particularly those featured in Greece as anti government riots occur. There is very much a real feel to this film, for the most part. This makes for a grimmer tone than the film’s predecessors. This is not always a good thing. JB is certainly a much heavier film.

This is not escapist fare as the street sequences in which police clash with the citizenry easily reflect real word politics that besiege us image wise every day. The return of Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) presents her swan song on this franchise. We find her in Reykjavík searching through encrypted CIA files to out more of their dark secrets, particularly as regards Jason Bourne’s identity and the present rebirth of a “treadstone” variant,namely Iron Claw.  She reaches out to Bourne to share her intel and charge him with bringing things to public scrutiny as well as shedding light on more of his dark past. She reignites Bourne’s desire to re-engage if only to find out more about his own origins and his family’s own part in the “Treadstone” program. Bourne’s father, Richard Webb, played by character actor Gregg Henry becomes the ghost Jason (David Webb) chases. More fragments of his memory are restored. The notion of Bourne’s “tipping point” per his psychological profile is posited, analyzed and exploited throughout the film. The question of can or will he return to the program and CIA is broached throughout the movie.

Tommy Lee Jones plays CIA head Robert Dewey. Like Bourne, this obstreperous, old school character is one Jones could play in his sleep. As with Damon, Jones brings his own spin on what could otherwise be a trope-ish one dimensional character. In stark contrast is Dewey’s approach is his mentee and second Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who presents a new world perspective buttressed by a seeming naive idealism. Her performance is understated which plays well in a film where alliances are questionable and one never really knows who one is working for or against. Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, a whiz kid social media savant whose service based model “Deep Dream” could easily be a parable for Zuckerberg’s Facebook legacy. Kalloor’s relationship with the government agency earns him a Faustian bargain that acts as a cautionary tale to the world at large. Despite his pronouncements to the public that “no one will be watching you” assuring his public of privacy; one knows this is a promise that cannot be kept in an age where so many are so skilled at gleaning and releasing personal information with aplomb. His link with Dewey is at the heart of the film, namely security versus personal freedom. His relationship with fellow classmate Lee is hinted at but never fully explored. (Maybe in the next run…which assuredly will happen).

The cold war paranoia (“I knew he would come for me….”) exhibited by Dewey, works – and is juxtaposed with Vincent Cassel’s “Asset” own focus –  which does not. Cassel’s unnamed asset is well…psychotic and has zero impulse control. His propensity toward public violence is so outlandish that the notion that he could ever be a shadowy agent or assassin is laughable. He is a trope. His motivation is silly. A sore point I believe with critics overall is the car chase sequence in Vegas that was more at home in a Fast and Furious film than spy fare. The “Asset’s” part in making David Webb Jason Bourne pretty much insures that his later “Bourne as traitor” philosophy just doesn’t fly. Jason Bourne is wronged at every turn and his vengeance is righteous. Fight scenes in this run, as always, are top tier with less of reliance on the single shaky cam practice for one on ones that became a trademark of previous Bourne forays.

Ultimately, the point of knowing who you really are and those around you has grave resonance up to and including the denouement. Heather Lee’s “my reasons are different from yours, but we want the same thing” proclamation to Jason earns a superb payoff in the final moments and restores the notion that Bourne is far from done.  Matt Damon can still carry this franchise as long he wishes. Jason Bourne is simply outstanding and well worth your time.

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