‘Jason Bourne’: A Return to Form for the Franchise

After the disappointment of The Bourne Legacy, franchise veteran Paul Greengrass returns to the helm, bringing back Matt Damon as the elusive spy for one final jolt of pulsating adrenaline to (hopefully) tie-up the series.

The tentatively-named Jason Bourne is almost beat for beat a Bourne movie, doing just enough to warrant its existence.  It walks a very thin line throughout its two-hour run time, an unnecessary length, as much of the plot points and characters are similar to what has come before. There’s the agent in the field after Bourne, the nefariously aged CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones), and an operative involved in Bourne’s elimination that ends up helping him (Alicia Vikander). The development of Bourne’s past, through the discovery of a personal connection to the Treadstone programme, keeps things interesting.

Jason Bourne feels very much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Stick with me). The Force Awakens doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is a retread of A New Hope, but it almost had to be done to steer the franchise back on track after the disliked prequels. The film’s first words — “This will begin to put things right” —  tell you everything. The latest Bourne film has a similar vibe. It serves as a reminder of what a Bourne movie should be after a shaky predecessor.

It has been ten years since Jason Bourne found out who he was and walked away from the agency that trained him. Now off the grid and wrestling with his past, Bourne is brought back into the fold. Former contact and ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) unearths new information regarding Bourne and another programme the CIA are working on.

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Almost immediately it’s apparent that Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse are steering the ship. The extreme close-ups, unhinged camera work and quick cuts to accommodate John Powell’s stimulating and iconic score, are all present. With Matt Damon front and centre amongst thrilling chase sequences and dynamic, viscerally-choreographed fist fights, it is hard not to feel electrified.

Where Jason Bourne falls flat, however, is in a plot line revolving around the development of a social media app called Deep Dream, funded by the CIA, who now demand access to spy on its billions of users and deal with evolving threats. Whilst it is certainly a contemporary issue in a post-Snowden world, touching on issues like surveillance vs. privacy, it is a distraction from the main event that is Bourne’s injection back into the picture, the secrets he uncovers and the issues posed. The narrative thread serves as a threat for Bourne to inevitably neutralise during his own agendas, but ultimately is overshadowed and thus becomes forgettable.

The final third begins to feel as though Bourne’s journey is going to wrap up in a particular way. Thankfully, it does not, as it would have made the beloved trilogy before it redundant. Although that direction could have opened a gateway to continue making more Bourne movies, it was reassuring to know that the people involved knew it was time to put Bourne to bed. After the credits rolled it felt as though the franchise had now been drained dry. Any stories that follow would run the risk of feeling repetitious. There are only so many times a secret government programme can be topped by another.

Despite the familiar ground, Jason Bourne is a thrilling return to form for the franchise. It hearkens back to what makes a Bourne movie great, whilst incorporating just enough to validate its return. The global surveillance plot line fails to result in anything meaningful, though, and is forgettable as the interest lies in Bourne’s journey throughout the story. Although Jason Bourne doesn’t quite match the level of the first three films, Greengrass and Damon’s return is a swan song for the franchise that should end the series on a much deserved high note.

Image: Universal Pictures

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An aspiring video games journalist in my third year of media studies that has a rather unhealthy obsession with a certain Caped Crusader. You can follow my nerdy shenanigans on Twitter @LevelUpLynch.
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