As a fan of the Bourne trilogy, I was dismayed when in 2012, Universal went ahead with the sequel (Bourne Legacy) without Matt Damon. That fact perhaps made me more excited to see Damon teamed up again with director Paul Greengrass for a fifth (well, technically fourth) entry. I guess it’s inevitable that a franchise as lucrative as Bourne will keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny, it’s essentially the American version of James Bond.
This movie starts out about eight years after the events that took place in Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne exposed CIA’s covert ops Blackfriar. As a result he’s been hiding out in Greece, and apparently does bare-knuckle boxing in his spare time. Whilst the previous three films followed Bourne on a journey to find out who he really is, this time around he’s aware of his identity. He knows his real name is David Webb and became the lethal assassin that is Jason Bourne when he joined Treadstone. But of course there are new revelations about his past that the CIA’s been keeping from him, and later we find out the matter is quite a personal one.
Intense secrecy and not knowing who to trust is at the heart of any spy thriller and that’s the case here. There are obvious antagonists, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his henchman known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), but there’s Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who heads the Cyber Ops Division who’s sort of in the gray area. On Bourne side is his longtime ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who risks herself retrieving classified files about Bourne’s late father.
Now, one major beef I have with this movie is how they handled Nicky. I feel that for someone who’s been with the franchise for that long, the writers (Greengrass & Christopher Rouse) should’ve given her a much better character arc. Heck, I’d love to see just a bit of background to her character that would at least explain why she’s loyal to Bourne. I mean, they did so with The Asset, which explains his personal vendetta against Bourne. At the very least, why not give her the same courtesy?
But what I did like is that like in previous films, Bourne is given an adversary worthy of his prowess. Jones’ Dewey is ruthless in his pursuit to eliminate him and Cassel is one menacing guy who makes The Asset a formidable foe for Bourne. Dewey’s ruthlessness isn’t just concerning Bourne, but the fact that he’s willing to sacrifice his own people, as well as civilians at large, in order to fulfill his purposes. The film also delves into the state of current tech and geopolitical climate and woven it into the plot. Things like privacy, hacking, the political instability in Greece, etc. are certainly timely things we deal with in our world today. So the subplot involving a social media program called Deep Dream is pretty relevant, and British actor Riz Ahmed is quite memorable here playing its founder.
The movie is basically a giant chase scene. There’s not much breathing room because of the way Greengrass shot every scene. Even the mundane office scenes are shot in a frenetic style with hand-held camera that gave me a bit of a headache at first. But thankfully after a while I was able to overcome it and it didn’t bother me as much, though I still think it’s a bit excessive.
Going into a Bourne movie, of course you expect a ton of exhilarating action sequences, and this movie delivered! The motorcycle scene through narrow streets, scaling up and down steps through a Greek city gives you such a huge adrenaline rush. But that’s nothing compared to the crazy car chase in the Vegas strip involving a SWAT truck plowing through a bunch of cars. It certainly isn’t aiming for realism, but boy was it fun! Apparently the sequence took five weeks to shoot and ended up wrecking 170 cars.
Those wanting to see hand-to-hand combat won’t be disappointed though. There’s an extended scene of Bourne vs. The Asset that’s pretty darn intense. I noticed there’s no music going on during that scene, only the sound of bone crunching and flesh tearing to enhance the impact. Damon’s definitely still got it, Bourne is certainly one of my favorite roles of his. At 45 he’s looking more grizzled with bags under his eyes, but he pulls off the physically-demanding role once again. But of course like Bond, Bourne’s got stamina of super-heroic proportion and seems to be impervious to pain.
The finale suggests the strained relationship between Bourne & the Agency remains unchanged. Of course there wouldn’t be a Bourne franchise if the hero’s suddenly in good terms with a big, powerful organization notorious for overreaching its boundaries. Vikander acquits herself well here as the new face who might be present in future installments, and I have no problem with that.
I think there’s nostalgic elements here that affect my enjoyment. I love that the Moby song Extreme Ways is still used, it’s certainly the defining theme for the franchise. On the whole I think Jason Bourne is on par with the trilogy even if it isn’t as impactful. It could be because the mystery surrounding his identity is no longer there, which was the secret ingredient that makes Bourne’s journey so intriguing. That said, it’s certainly still an enjoyable action thriller because I’m a big fan of this character and Damon playing him. Unlike Bond though, it remains to be seen if this franchise can have as much longevity without Greengrass and Damon.
Have you seen ‘Jason Bourne’? I’d love to hear what you think!
30 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Jason Bourne (2016)”
Fine review Ruth.
I believe you scored the film about the same as I did. Maybe I even gave it a quarter point more. But I thought it lacked originality and seemed so familiar. Which is fact exactly what they did. They stuck to the Bourne formula – new places and new people but Greengrass clung to his formula and Damon executed perfectly.
That said, and like the other films in the trilogy, I’ll watch them every time they cycle again on TV. So I look forward to rewatchig this one again down the road.
Hello Mike! How’ve you been man, you’ve moved to a new place now right?
Yeah, some people complained it’s more of the same but then again I like the Greengrass/Damon formula so that affects my enjoyment. I’m curious how I’d feel about this one down the road as the trilogy is extremely re-watchable!
Good review Ruth. I haven’t seen Jason Bourne so I don’t have much to add. I like that Damon is back as Bourne. I didn’t know Cassel is in this, nice to hear he’s a formidable foe.
Hey Eddie! If you like Damon in the role I think you’d enjoy this one. Yep Cassel is the villain and he’s a naturally scary guy.
I think my nostalgia worked against this film because I love the trilogy so much and adding another movie that isn’t as good knocks the story of Bourne down a peg. It was a good film but not good enough to match my expectation. Great read!
Hi Benjamin, welcome to FC! Interesting that the nostalgia actually lessen your enjoyment. I do agree that the trilogy is much stronger, but I think this one has some intriguing elements (using current events and state of technology) that makes it feel relevant.
Nice review Ruth and we’re pretty much in agreement but my score would’ve been higher, I’d give 4.5 out 5 for now. I’m going to see it again later tonight, want to experience all of the crazy action in Dolby Atmos all over again. You know what’s funny, in the books Bourne’s already in his 40s so Damon is now perfectly fits the role! I wasn’t too happy about his casting for the first film since he’s only in his early 30s back then.
It’s too bad that Nicky didn’t really have much to do but to move the plot forward, very similar to what they did with Marie in the second film. I remember that upset many fans of the books since Marie played a big role in the fist three books. I also like the fact that Cassel’s character had a motivation to take down Bourne instead of just taking orders from the big boss. As mentioned earlier, it appears Greengrass decided to bring in a lot of elements from the books and Ahmed’s character will likely play a bigger role in the upcoming sequels.
Love the Vegas sequences, since I’ve been to The Aria hotel many times, I recognized all of the places they shown in the film. Also, through movie magic somehow they made Vegas strip look bigger than it actually is. Definitely loved that car chase through the strip!
Hello Ted! Wow, a 4.5! I’d give that rating to the last two Bourne, because even though I enjoyed this one I still think the first three films are superior. Perhaps because there’s that novelty factor and like I mention, the fact that Bourne was figuring out his identity was more intriguing to me. But yeah it’s still pretty thrilling, I REALLY do like Damon as Bourne, this is one of my all time fave action character because of the way he portrayed him.
Yeah it seems the Bourne filmmakers shortchange the women in the film, even though they are strong, intelligent women in a male-dominated field. I feel that Nicky deserves a better arc, even more so than Marie.
I do like Ahmed’s character so I hope he’d be back. He’s a terrific actor. And the various chases are fun to me, and I wasn’t expecting them to be realistic. I mean of course they’re gonna be preposterous, just like in all of the Fast & Furious and Bond flicks, ahah.
I’m seeing it again tonight so my opinion may change, lol. But I remember I was sort of disappointed with the third film, mostly because it didn’t really have anything new and even the car chase scene ended the same way as the second film. The Bourne Supremacy is still my favorite and I think this one is better than the first film; again I might change my mind when I see it again.
I don’t know why some people expect to see “realistic” action scenes from a spy movie, I forgot where but I was reading a review of this film and the person said it’s way too unrealistic compare to the previous films. Well Bourne plowed through several cars in the chase scene in the second film then crashed into an SUV and survived. He used the bad guy’s body as shield when jumped from a building in the first film and lived, yeah very realistic there. Then in the third film, he was in a car that fell several floors in the parking ramp then an SUV crashed into this car, yet he’s walked away with small scratches. I think some of these people needs to re-watch the first three films again before saying this one is way too unrealistic.
Also, in the third film, Bourne jumped through a window with glasses yet he has no cuts what so ever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USHz6TQyXwg, that’s very realistic right there. Pretty sure if anyone try that in real life, they’d get tons of cuts or even die from it.
Okay rant over, lol.
Mwahahaha! Very true Ted, it’s impossible anyone could’ve come out unscathed doing all the crazy stunts that Bourne did in all of his movies. He also fell down from a rooftop and hit his head in this movie and woke up within seconds before the bad guy showed up, AND he could still run!! That’s why I said I think he’s impervious to pain!
Fine review, Ruth. I think I’m more in Ted’s camp as I got a kick out of it. A fast, fun spy actioner, with elements of Snowden sprinkled in.
Hi Michael! Glad you enjoyed this. I like that whole tech/geopolitical mix in this, making it feels more relevant. And yes it’s definitely fun! Are you gonna see Suicide Squad btw?
Cool! Curious to hear your thoughts on it. I’ll be reviewing it this weekend and it’s inspired a couple of questions for tomorrow’s Five for the Fifth 😉
Nice review Ruth, your thoughts pretty much mirror mine. I’m a big fan of the Bourne series (I even enjoyed Legacy) and enjoyed Jason Bourne on the whole, but it really was a case of business as usual and nothing we haven’t seen before.
Totally agree about Nicky, they should have made much more significant and Greengrass is a good director but I really am sick (literally) of the overuse of hand held camera shots/fast cuts to drive action sequences. There’s none of that in Bond or Mission: Impossible and they’ve delivered some awesome set pieces.
Hi Chris! I didn’t hate ‘Legacy’ but I think it worked better if it were not a ‘Bourne’ movie, y’know what I mean?
Yeah the overuse of hand-held camera is irritating. I’m glad I got over my nausea but I still think they could get rid of that style entirely. I agree w/ you, they didn’t do that w/ the other action flicks and they are all the better for it!
You know I wasn’t gonna bother but with Cassell in this, I might just check it out. I haven’t seen any of the other movies, should I start from the beginning. From what you’ve written it sounds like that’s why i need to do!
Hi Jordan! Oh you should check out the previous Bourne films w/ Damon! I thought those are excellent, the trilogy is amongst my all time favorite. Cassel is a formidable foe here, but Bourne’s got some interesting villains in the previous films too, I LOVE Karl Urban in the 2nd movie and the car chase is extremely memorable!
Still really looking forward to catching this. Hopefully my cinema is still showing it over the weekend! Great write up.
Hi Zoë, if you like the trilogy then I think you’ll enjoy this. I’d think this one will stay in the cinema for some time.
xD If my cinema functioned like a regular one, I would buy that. They told my colleague on Wednesday that yesterday would be the last day that they play it (and it only came out on Friday). I am hoping this is not the case, or that they play it intermittently with something else. I would just like to see it. I love the Bourne films.
I’m sure it’s one that I’ll enjoy. It was going to be tough to live up to the last Matt Damon adventure. Glad you found stuff to enjoy in it, Ruth.
Hi Dan! Even though it wasn’t as good as the trilogy, it’s still a pretty darn thrilling and Damon still killed it in the role.
We are pretty much on the same page. I think it’s fun and definitely not as bad as some critics make it out to be. But it lacked something for me. Still glad I saw it.
Hi Keith! I was wondering if you got around to seeing this. I think the ‘lack of something’ could be because this is the fourth Bourne outing w/ Damon so the novelty factor is wearing thin a bit. But fortunately the script has some contemporary elements that made it still exciting. I really like what they did w/ Ahmed’s character, the founder of Deep Dream, that’s an intriguing subplot.
I wasn’t as positive, but I’m happy you enjoyed it a bit more than I did.
Yeah I read your review Nostra. To each their own I suppose, that’s ok that we disagree. I guess I’m just happy to see Damon & Greengrass back, but I think the trilogy is still superior.
We could have done without it to be honest, but here it is and it’s as good as I had hoped. Boy, does Julia Stiles look old though! Damon ain’t fresh faced anymore either! Damon and Greengrass remain a class act though.
Hollywood isn’t too kind on actresses and they didn’t give Julia’s character a satisfying arc either. But yeah overall it’s still darn entertaining!