When Jason Bourne jumped off the building after being shot in the final moments of The Bourne Ultimatum, it signaled a completion of a circle for the franchise. In the first film Bourne was found underwater and was brought back to life, and in what seemed to be the final film he found his freedom by wading back into the waters. It was a perfect ending to an extremely rare franchise which kept getting better with every subsequent film.
But since the films made a lot of money it is no surprise that Bourne was pulled out of the water again by the studio for another round of action. After the middling The Bourne Legacy, the director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon attempt to revive the magic in Jason Bourne, and largely succeed. The film is both exciting and disappointing at the same time – the former because it renders most of the thrills and the action set pieces of the original trilogy, and the latter because it doesn’t really do anything more than that.
The story is proof that Hollywood wants to stick by the tried and tested formula. Jason Bourne is like a Xerox copy of the original films – Bourne is once again tortured by fragments of a traumatic memory that he’s desperately trying to uncover, the CIA is trying to hunt down the man because he holds some sensitive information that might compromise their dirty secretive operations, Bourne threatens the exposure of the agency’s top secret ultra soldier programs, a top honcho of the agency (Tommy Lee Jones) wants Bourne eliminated because his prestigious career is under fire because of his corrupt operations, and a super assassin from Bourne’s covert asset making programme is sent by the agency to kill him.
As the film progresses, it's actually quite frustrating that the filmmakers went about making something we’ve seen thrice before, but the action and thrills are ramped up to a familiar high so the clichés don’t matter that much. Whether it’s nostalgia or hitting the right beats, it’s just very satisfying to watch Bourne punch people with mundane items and evade the CIA in a crowd. The performances are all top notch and Alicia Vikander makes a nice addition as this films version of Pamela Landy.
The real problem with Jason Bourne is not the recycled story, but the fact that it has characters that make some pretty stupid decisions. For example Bourne goes to a super hacker to decode some CIA files but the hacker leaves the internet on his laptop on, enabling the CIA to track them. The files themselves are called ‘top secret CIA operations’. The ‘hacking’ exposition is poorly handled as well with dialogue like ‘let’s hack the CIA with SQL’.
Contrast this to the earlier films where the movies were smarter than the audience, for the first time in the franchise this is a movie that is dumber than the audience. The shaky camera, which was a hallmark of the franchise now looks dated and frustrating as you hardly see any of the action in proper focus. Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy, surprisingly had ditched this style and was ultimately a more satisfying watch, at least in the action department and it also explored more of Bourne’s universe instead of reusing a tested formula. It just goes to show that Gilroy, and not Greengrass needed to write this film.