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Jason Bourne: Why would he come back now?

Thank god we live in an age of digital film distribution because if Jason Bourne had come out in an earlier age, it would have been a horrific waste of celluloid. In the annals of unnecessary sequels, this probably won’t be remembered as one of the most egregious, as people will struggle to remember it. I am having to type this up with incredible rapidity as the bland details of this slapped together TV film wither in my mind.

The plot is as contrived as one might expect for a trilogy that wrapped and already had one pointless appendage with The Bourne Legacy. Jason is back because he needs to get some more revenge on the agency… apparently. The conspiracy ran deeper than the previous films led us to believe (this is demonstrably not true). There’s also a subplot about using a new social media platform to spy on people (which Bourne never actually interacts with) used to deliver some sophomoric pontificating about cyber-privacy in a very clichéd attempt to appear relevant.

There’s a man whose sole job is to say ‘My god, that’s Jason Bourne!’

Enhance!On the point of ‘cyber’ though, I haven’t seen a film with such transparently nonsensical technobabble in some time. I am not especially technically minded but even I know when words like ‘malware’, ‘programme’, ‘digital’ and ‘cyber’ are being thrown around as a substitute for content. To give you the scale of it, Jason Bourne unironically includes a scene where they ‘enhance’ an image. I think even CSI stopped doing that a decade ago.

The narrative seems to be assembled out of stock tropes with little notice given to structure or narrative and typical Greengrass action set-pieces breaking them apart. There’s a young dynamic Silicon Valley CEO who dresses well and always wears trainers. There’s a bullish CIA grandee who wants to kill off Bourne and put this issue to rest for the agency. There’s a shadowy European hitman who will stalk Bourne for the majority of the film. There’s a man whose sole job is to say ‘My god, that’s Jason Bourne!’ in an operational control room. There’s a reasonably sympathetic female character to lead Bourne from plot point to plot point – in fact, there are two, as both Julia Stiles and Alicia Vikander are in this.

Julia Stiles is doing a great impression of a log cabin, she is so wooden

Team America voice Matt DamonIt’s a case of underused actors of some acclaim coasting for a decent paycheque. Matt Damon alternates between ‘determined face’ in action scenes/’unsettled face’ when having flashbacks and hardly has any lines. Tommy Lee Jones just has to appear on-screen and do his irascible old bulldog routine as this iterations shady old g-man. Julia Stiles is doing a great impression of a log cabin, she is so wooden. I can’t imagine anyone went into this with much enthusiasm or effort. It shows.

I can’t think of who this film is for. The story was done and this non-plot adds nothing to the greater Jason Bourne mythos. Was anyone asking for this? Of course not, no one ever does, but studios are far more willing to dust off identifiable brands than present anything new. It’s amusing. As cinema performance struggles more and more to match creativity-led projects with a desire to show us something new on TV, film studios insist on combatting this with more washed out retreads of things we have already seen. Jason Bourne is that in a nutshell. You’ve seen this before, only this time, it’s boring.

Face number 2

Verdict: Count yourself lucky. If you see Jason Bourne, at least you’ll forget about it in a few hours.

About Fenton Coulthurst

Fenton is an occasional writer and journalist. He primarily writes on film and culture. His articles range from film reviews, to coverage of literary festivals and even comic book history.

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