In a summer of unnecessary sequels, a new Bourne movie seemed necessary. Or easily defensible, at least. After all, people liked the original trilogy. Director Paul Greengrass was returning. So was Matt Damon.
So now Jason Bourne’s coming out this Friday, with another CIA conspiracy to uncover, more tortured flashbacks, and a whole bunch of new backstory that conveniently didn’t come up once in any of the first four movies.
But maybe that’s being unfair. It’s been nearly 10 years since The Bourne Ultimatum. The filmmakers needed to figure out some way to yank Bourne back into the fold, and revealing new information about the amnesiac super-assassin’s past is better than coming up with yet another secretive team of super-powered killers. Ahem, Bourne Legacy, we’re looking at you.
Either way, nine years and one ill-advised, Damon-less sequel later, Bourne’s officially back. Here’s the lowdown on the state of the Bourne-verse these days.
Still great. Damon’s the actor equivalent of that badass one-punch KO that’s been all over the Jason Bourne trailers. (Fair warning: this scene is barely in the actual movie. Blink and you’ll definitely miss it.) After almost a decade on the lam, his Bourne is tortured, stoic and mostly silent — if you crunch the numbers, he’s got only about 25 lines of dialogue in the entire 123 minutes. And he still crushes it. Damon’s unlikely action hero has always been the best thing about this franchise, and still is.
Still shaking that damn camera every chance he gets. Greengrass’ signature aesthetic seemed revolutionary back in 2004 when he took over the Bourne franchise, inspiring a host of shaky-cam copycats, but the style’s always been a better fit in the filmmaker’s real-life thrillers (Captain Phillips, United 93, Green Zone) than his action movies. Sure, the technique lends a gritty, boots-on-the-ground realism during Jason Bourne’s Greece riot scenes. But when the camera’s still bobbing and weaving and randomly zooming when it’s just characters walking-and-talking or sitting around a boardroom table, it borders on outright parody. Enough already.
To be honest, it’s kind of a surprise Stiles is still here — somehow, her CIA analyst character went from almost being killed off in the Bourne Identity to becoming the lone non-Damon constant in the entire franchise. So how’d she do in this one? Not great, Bob. She still serves her purpose, providing a familiar face to draw Bourne out of hiding, kicking off the movie’s entire chain of events. But unless there’s some Special Analyst Nicky Parsons super-fans out there, her return isn’t nearly as big a selling point as Bourne’s.
Just kidding, everyone. Renner doesn’t get to do his “dumb Bourne” act in this one, unfortunately. In fact, no mention of the former Operation Outcome soldier is made, not even in passing. For all intents and purposes, Aaron Cross and The Bourne Legacy never existed. Supposedly, they’re both getting their own sequel in 2018, but yeah, we’ll believe it when we see it.
Shadowy Black Ops Teams
Still shadowy AF. This time, Bourne only has to go up against one fellow super-assassin, played by Vincent Cassel, who I could’ve sworn had already been in one of these movies, but apparently not. Either way, the CIA is still working on a number of shady projects, but it’s more about settling old scores with Bourne here; any new operations are squarely on the back burner. Rest assured though, we’re shown at least seven new top-secret paramilitary program codenames that are fair game for any/all future sequels.
Sleazy CIA Directors
The Bourne franchise’s burned through a lot of cranky older actors playing villainous CIA top brass — Brian Cox, Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach. Now it’s Tommy Lee Jones’ turn to adopt a gravely voice and thing for killing Jason Bourne (because, reasons!). Jones does it all with his signature world-weariness — he’s just a guy who wants to be left alone to spy on our nation’s phones and computers in peace, OK? — and you know what? It totally works.
Hollywood’s new favourite “It Girl” gets to add yet another franchise notch to her belt, and the Oscar-winning actress is unsurprisingly great at breathing life into an otherwise stock character. (This is the type of role where she gets to shout “Enhance!” at a computer screen.) She’s less great at doing an American accent though, apparently going for “Texan, with a mouthful of cotton balls,” I guess? This is going to need some work for future movies, Bourne or otherwise.
Should They Do Another One?
The Bourne franchise is the closest we’ve got to an American Bond, but it’s hard to see this latest instalment re-invigorating the series the same way Fast Five or Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol did for their respective action franchises. Essentially, it’s just more of the same — shaky-cam fights, climactic car chases, Bourne vs. the CIA – without many new wrinkles. This is a movie that’s obsessed with the idea of bringing Bourne back into the fold, or killing him off if he says no. In the end, the franchise gets what it wants — Bourne is back! — and the CIA doesn’t. Which leaves us, where exactly? Back at square one again, with Bourne just trying to live his life and the agency unwilling to let him. So unless both can come up with a new plan of attack, maybe it’s time we all just let Bourne go.