In 1988, my mom introduced me to Jason Bourne. He was very different than the “modern” version we have now. Hell the original trilogy of books hadn’t even been finished at the time. Back then Bourne was played by Richard Chamberlain and his story was told over a couple of nights in a made for television movie. Although I don’t really remember much of it, I do know the story was fantastic.
Fast forward to 2002 when Good Will Hunting is cast as Jason Bourne. People may not remember this, but it was this same year that Matt Damon’s partner in crime, Ben Affleck was cast as Jack Ryan for The Sum of All Fears. Affleck’s flick came out a couple of weeks before Damon’s and beat the latter’s for the opening weekend box office. It was originally seen as a big win for Ben and serious thought was given to his involvement with further Ryan movies. Obviously that didn’t materialize as Matt is still playing Bourne and Ben has moved onto Batman. I’m not saying Affleck was bad, I’m saying Damon captured the essence of a much better character.
Bourne supporting cast has also helped him tremendously, beginning with his first travel companion Marie, played by Franka Potente. There were a ton of other highlights in the form of Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Clive Owen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Walton Goggins, and yes, even Julia Stiles. I’d also like to give a huge shoutout to director Doug Liman. Paul Greengrass took over the franchise after that first movie and has been given mad props for his work, but Liman started this series and constantly gets overshadowed in my opinion.
Moving on, the action continued to perfection with the sequel The Bourne Supremacy. The addition of Karl Urban and Joan Allen, as well as the shocking manner in which we lose Marie, takes the story to the next level. We’re into the realm of revenge, which is always a great tale to tell. Especially when you have such a special set of skills like Jason Bourne.
Although enjoyable, the third film doesn’t hold up to the first two. The action sequences are fantastic, but the story of David Webb is not nearly as interesting as discovering who exactly is Jason Bourne. Once again the cast is top notch with the additions of David Strathairn, Scott Glen, and Albert Finney. Despite the weaker story, this third installment nicely ties up Jason Bourne’s inclusion in the clandestine franchise.
Not surprisingly, the films were so incredibly successful that Universal Pictures felt the need to extend the story with a new character in a similar situation by the name of Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner. Moving up from writer, Tony Gilroy takes the directing reigns to navigate a solid story that focuses on the covert group Outcome in The Bourne Legacy. This was going to be our conduit to a whole new franchise of Bourne flicks. But it didn’t happen.
That’s an overly simple answer, but the truth is Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returned to one of the best action franchises of all time. This negated an immediate return to a Cross storyline. The early trailer released during the Super Bowl provided proof that these decisions might pay off. We were getting another Bourne film and it was going to be fantastic!
Not so fast my friends. I had the pleasure of watching Jason Bourne during an early press screening. As you are now well aware, I love the character and the series. This installment just doesn’t hold up to the rest of the franchise. But before I get ahead of myself, let me start with the positives.
Matt Damon is fantastic as Bourne once again. He’s clearly older, but he worked hard to get into fantastic shape and kicked ass in a high octane action flick. Speaking of which, the action sequences are phenomenal. My favorite one being the car chase scene on the Las Vegas Strip that is teased in the trailer. The actors not playing Bourne as great as well, including of course Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Alicia Vikander, and once again Julia Stiles. Specifically with Vikander’s character Heather Lee, we are treated to the possibility of more Bourne flicks with a morally ambiguous character who may or may not be in charge.
I’m also a big fan of how they incorporated new technology into this installment. They utilize social media, cameras and satellites like never before, which I found fascinating. That may seem like an odd assessment, but tech has come a long way since we last saw Damon play Bourne, specifically the rise of social media and the privacy issues consistently associated with it. I will, however, admonish them for finding a blurry picture of a target early in the film and Vikander’s character orders a tech to “enhance.” Of course the picture becomes instantly pristine. Biggest piece of fiction in the whole damn movie.
On the flip side, the biggest negative I can point to in Jason Bourne is the lack of heart and soul. The impetus to pull Jason out of his off the grid life is contrite. Where as in Supremecy, Marie’s murder launches his bloodlust to avenge her death, this time Nicky (Julia Stiles) returns with new information that is supposed to make him feel compelled to get back into the game. As if that isn’t enough, they tip the scales even more with a forced shocker that can be seen from a mile away. If there were just your average action flick, perhaps starring Jason Statham or the like, boom, I’m sold. The action was fantastic. The story was ok. No harm, no foul, I’m entertained throughout. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I was a Jason Bourne movie. Right or wrong I hold it to a higher standard for that reason. And it just didn’t hit the target for me.
I give Jason Bourne 2.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Check out the trailer below:
And if you hate to read, here is my video review:
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