Jason Bourne review: Oh baby, oh baby. Then it fell apart, it fell apart
Director - Paul Greengrass
Cast - Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Styles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel
Rating - 2.5/5
The siren blares. The beat kicks in. Moby’s voice, the only voice that can be both cold and soothing at the same time, sings that familiar tune. “Oh baby, oh baby. Then it fell apart, fell apart.” But this time, instead of the usual sense of amazement, Moby’s words are accompanied by a feeling of cruel irony. This time, Jason Bourne isn’t floating away from a certain death – this time, there is no wry smile on Nicky Parsons’ face, and neither is there one on yours.
If you, like me, are a fan of the Bourne series, hearing those siren-like notes announce Moby’s Extreme Ways is always an emotional moment. It’s the moment when all the pieces fall together, the moment when you sit back, awestruck, and let the exhilaration of those final scenes sink in.
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Even before the movie began, it was the promise of Moby-fuelled catharsis that excited me, because unlike the rest of you, the idea of a fifth Bourne movie was never something that made sense to me. Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass were right the first time – their story had seen its logical end. There was no need for them to come back. The first 3 Bourne films are perfect. They redefined action movies for the post-9/11 generation. Even the always under-enthusiastic Jeremy Renner and his subpar spinoff couldn’t ruin the streak.
In hindsight, the title should’ve given it away: Jason Bourne, the film, is far too enamoured with Jason Bourne, the character, to function on its own. The film has been totally and utterly consumed by his awesomeness. Every line coming out of his mouth – and god knows there aren’t too many – is declared with such intense ferocity, that it almost seems as if Matt Damon has decided to quit acting. Tommy Lee Jones’ role, on the other hand, comprises mostly of him whispering ‘You have no idea who you’re dealing with’ to whoever is within earshot. We get it: Bourne is cool. You don’t have to remind us.
Jason Bourne makes it seem as if all those years Damon and Greengrass spent refusing to return was just an elaborate negotiation tactic. He really does have nothing to do in this movie. Nothing. The plot is borderline non-existent, stretched to breaking point amidst vague murmurs of social media conspiracies, mass surveillance and Edward Snowden. Perhaps they thought they could simply skirt by on nostalgia, offering up trope after trope in failed fan-service. But everything they do here – from poor Nicky getting chased along alleys, to Vincent Cassel’s silent assassin – was done better in the first 3 films.
Paul Greengrass, sworn enemy of dollies and cranes, has always been a political filmmaker. He often shrouds his work in the accessibility of genre, but at its heart, his films are an honest appraisal of overbearing governments, corporate misdeeds and human beings trapped in organisations. Jason Bourne too flirts with more important themes, but less so than any film he’s made before. More often than not, it seems like the plot is being constructed around the next spectacular chase scene and not the other way around. But boy, does Greengrass know how to shoot a car chase. His handheld camera finds the truth among the glitzy Hollywood lies, it finds calm within the chaos.
A riot scene in Greece reminded me of Bloody Sunday, a fantastic film he made early in his career that you really must watch. But it was the Las Vegas car chase that stood out. It’s nowhere near as great as the one in Moscow from The Bourne Supremacy, but it’s bonkers in all the right ways. It pushes Bourne into a whole new realm of invulnerability. It’s this series’ jumping the shark/nuking the fridge/pulling-a-John McClane-moment.
Jason Bourne is the worst of the Matt Damon Bourne series – it might even be worse than The Bourne Legacy. But it’s almost as if Bourne knows… He knows his best is behind him. He knows he deserves better than this movie, and that makes him want to return to the only life he’s ever known, the only life he’s understood – a life in which no one is safe, a life spent looking over his shoulder.
But before you do that, get some rest Jason. You look tired.