Thursday, August 4, 2016

Jason Bourne (2016)

Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returned and delivered another chapter in Jason Bourne's story that looked and felt identical to the previous ones, beat by beat - which is not necessarily a bad thing!

The latest entry in the franchise looks like the "greatest hits" album of older musicians. It repeats the best parts of the previous entries without adding much to the legacy of the franchise. The fight choreography is amazing, the car chases are thrilling, and the pacing is engaging, yet it is a rehash of what Bourne had done before.

The first entry, Bourne Identity (2002), broke the mold of the spy genre with its nitty-gritty atmosphere. It changed the game to the extent that the producers of the Bond franchise decided to reboot the series and discard the rich 40-year history of their already perfect legacy. My frustrations with this decision to make Bond a faceless brut, although besides the point in the current review, have been documented in my reviews of Spectre and Skyfall.

Going back to Bourne, I had higher expectations from this movie. After almost a decade from the last entry, Bourne Ultimatum (2007), I thought it would change the game once again - but it didn't! The movie is still great, raises your adrenaline levels, and makes you lose track of time, but it just doesn't rise up to the challenge.

The other issue that I had with Jason Bourne (2016) was using personal issues as a storytelling device. Here, Bourne (or better say, David Webb) realizes that his father was responsible for the inception of the Treadstone program, but he was against using his own son as a recruit. Thus, the agency sends an assassin (or "asset" according to the Bourne lingo) to eliminate him. Later on, during the Bourne Ultimatum events, the same "asset" is captured due to revelations made by Bourne. Now, defying all the odds, the very same "asset" is back and assigned to tail Bourne. Both of these highly trained agents (i.e., Bourne and the "asset") have personal vendettas against each other; Bourne wants to avenge his dad, and the "asset" wants to punish Bourne for the years that he spent in captivity.

I really miss the good old days of the genre where an agents was simply assigned on a mission to go save the world, without having any personal stakes in the matter. The old James Bond franchise was like this. The objectives in the current Mission Impossible movies are also impersonal. But I see the trend of making things personal to the protagonist in the more recent movies; in Spectre, James Bond had to fight his evil step-brother, who also claimed responsibility for the events of the three previous movies. And now, Bourne is back to avenge his dad.

My last issue with Jason Bourne (2016) is the cinematography. After Paul Greengrass took over the franchise with Bourne Supremacy (2004), he brought the shaky handheld camera to the franchise. In more action-oriented sequences (e.g., hand-to-hand combats and car chases) that may give a sense of immersion to the audience. But in a regular conversation, or when a character is reading something from a computer screen, the shaky shots do nothing but make the audience dizzy and sick!

The tropes of the shaky camera, "asset", and Bourne trying to piece back memories of his past are old news, but for the entertainment value, I'd give it 7.5/10.

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