It’s been nine years since Jason Bourne was last on the big screen. Now he’s back. And yes, he’s still an amnesiac whom the CIA wants to kill. Some things never change.
Of course, the question is, is it worth watching? Well, here’s a review of it, and I’ll tell you.
Oh, and SPOILER ALERT.
A decade has passed since Bourne disappeared in the East River, but he is just as much of a dangerous assassin. And his amnesia still lingers. He might have finally figured out his Jason Bourne past, but it seems that he still can’t remember his David Webb—his pre-CIA—past.
That hasn’t bothered him for a decade, it seems. Instead of trying to remember, he’s been touring shady places across Europe—well, mostly just boxing rings, and, at the start of the film, around Greece.
That falls apart when his erstwhile ally-turned-hacktivist Nicky Parsons finds him, with the CIA hot on her tail. She’s just pulled off a major hack and she’s loaded with classified information. And then she breaks his world apart.
Ignorance is bliss. And Bourne had been living in ignorant bliss (if you can call getting hit in the face for a living bliss) until Parsons finds him and tells him that the CIA knows more about his family—and his forgotten past—than he thought. At which point, he drops everything and goes to confront the CIA’s Director.
And the show’s off to a grand start.
The plot (not a synopsis, just a review of it)
The new film has all the trappings of a typical Bourne film: Bourne’s looking for his memories, and the CIA is trying to kill him. Just like old times, except it’s now a decade later.
From lone wolf shootings to Snowden to Zuckerberg-like tech billionaires, it’s almost as if Bourne was just dropped into a brave new world. (Ahem, our world.) Except, of course, that he knows perfectly well how to utilise modern geek gear. (Like using a tracker app. How cool is that?) Greengrass and Rouse, the scriptwriters, certainly added twists, turns and layers to the plot by their rumination of modern issues, ranging from privacy issues to government misuse of personal data.
These issues form the new milieu that Bourne finds himself in. Bourne, in this film, is a reactive protagonist—he really doesn’t do much until the bullets start flying. Even then, he doesn’t don the Bourne hero persona—the one that exposed the Blackbriar project all those years ago. Instead, he’s more concerned with personal issues, like recovering his past. Even when a hacktivist asks for his aid, he coldly states, “I’m not on your side.” He’s obviously not interested in helping. Not anymore, anyway.
Of course, then whose side is he on? One agent, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is convinced that Bourne is on, or will rejoin, their side. The CIA’s Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), on the other hand, is quite convinced that Bourne is against them. But it seems that Bourne isn’t really against anybody—or for anybody. He’s seems mostly interested in recovering his own memories, and maybe shooting up those who are trying to kill him.
This puts him in conflict with literally every other group in the story, but hey, that’s typical Bourne stuff. In the meantime, the CIA is having its own civil war, as the morally driven (or power hungry) Heather Lee works her way up the ladder, fighting against her unscrupulous boss, Director Dewey. It’s always difficult to portray oneself as promoting morality when your job forces you to pick the lesser of two evils all the time. Indeed , it was hard to tell (and that’s part of the mystery) whether Lee was sincere in positioning herself as the moral option or whether it was just her version of trying to further her career.
But that’s enough of spoiling the plot. On to other stuff.
If you want a prime example of the shaky-cam method used properly, Jason Bourne is it. Greengrass does it well during the show’s several intense chase scenes, giving it a slightly journalistic feel. However, I did feel that it was a little overused, as the lengthy amount of shaking used at one point was rather confusing (and nauseating).
Shaky camera action aside, I found that the plot moved fast, and because of the lack of dialogue, even faster. Apparently, Matt Damon had only some 45 lines in the show, but even with so few, the plot made sense. I’ve always enjoyed stories that don’t rely heavily on dialogue to help the viewer understand what’s going on, and I found it entertaining in Jason Bourne.
Before we end, I recognise that there are some who thought that the movie didn’t live up to the earlier films. While I certainly agree that the new Bourne is outside the complete story arc of the original trilogy and yes, even outside Jeremy Renner’s one, I think that placing Bourne in our world of Facebook, hacktvists and an increasingly Big Brother-like government made Bourne feel fresh again. And while I’m usually against franchise movies, I enjoyed Jason Bourne.
So here’s the verdict: 8/10. It probably won’t be a cultural touchstone like the originals, but it’s still a good film.