I mean, if you were a deadly assassin, you would probably do street fighting, too. But that's about as in-depth with the character as this round goes.
“All that matters is staying alive.” This early line in Jason Bourne perfectly summarizes the mindset of the titular character and the creators of his franchise. Following the quest of an amnesiac assassin, this series is deeply etched in our cinematic memories, but now it seems to be desperately holding on for dear life.
The fifth film in the franchise, Jason Bourne returns to the series’ roots, reuniting star Matt Damon with director Paul Greengrass, who helmed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum — two of the best sequels ever made. As you’ll recall, the series took a detour in 2012, replacing Damon with Jeremy Renner. However, Jason Bourne doesn’t make up for that misfire.
With gray streaks in his hair and skin like cracked leather, Damon emerges as a tragic, tortured figure. The film catches up with Bourne about a decade after the events of Ultimatum, and we find him engaging in street fights for money. Bourne is condemned to a life as a lethal weapon, it seems. But the film never really explores the tragedy there — the idea that Bourne’s life is merely a dance with death. How long will he keep outrunning the CIA? (These government agents have to stop letting him slip through their fingers — it’s getting embarrassing.)
Bourne comes out of hiding when a fellow operative hacks into the CIA database and threatens to expose one of its dirty black-ops programs — or something like that. Bourne gathers some more information about his past in the midst of the mess, and the shadowy government agents chase him across the globe. CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) wants to “put him down” while the cyber operations manager, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), wants to bring Bourne back into the agency.
You’ve basically seen all of this before — the corrupt government practices behind closed doors, the shaky-cam fights and foot-chases, the haunted hero at the heart of it all. But back in the mid-2000s, the Bourne films exhilarated us with an intense sense of you-are-there immediacy. Jason Bourne, on the other hand, is like the character himself — tired, predictable and dreary. That’s not to say the film is without a few thrills though — such as a car chase across the Vegas strip and a tense confrontation in a hotel room that unravels Bourne’s troubled past.
There are seeds of a good film buried in Jason Bourne. Unfortunately, Damon and Greengrass don’t allow them to grow. Rather than exploring Bourne’s mortality and making a film about what it’s like to be an aging assassin, they gloss over his age and try to recreate the magic of the previous movies. But unlike Supremacy and Ultimatum, this film won’t linger in your memories. In this age of sequels, reboots and cinematic universes, maybe all that matters is keeping franchises alive, even if some entries are forgettable. But a lot of recent films seem to keep a series going for more compelling reasons than Jason Bourne.