Runtime: 123 minutes
Main Cast: Matt Damon
Tommy Lee Jones
Main Production Company: The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Written by: Paul Greengrass
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by Nelson Cumming
Matt Damon returns once again as the conflicted Jason Bourne in the fourth installment (or five depending on how you count) of the Bourne franchise. Jason Bourne is a movie that falls under the fine line of being a disappointment but not being a bad movie at all. I saw things that I liked but I also saw elements in it where the filmmaker’s eyes were bigger than their stomachs. At least Jason Bourne the movie had the ambition to be about something, even if it fell short of the line of greatness.
Jason Bourne follows the titular character being a lone wolf former CIA agent. As he learns from Nicole Pearsons (Julia Styles), there is more to his past that meets the eye. So he has to infiltrate the CIA to get an important document which he hopefully learns everything about his past. We are treading into familiar territory here.
Matt Damon does a good job of doing his “damaged-man-who-just-had his-fourth-bout-of-not-believing-he-knows-everything-about-his-past” character. He is also good at establishing himself as a tough guy. He can king hit a guy so hard it makes people at The Cross look like wimps (probably because both he and the victim were sober, facing each other and the victim consented as it was an organized fight, but those are minor technicalities of course). This works well for the action scenes that ensue.
If I were to rate this movie based on the action scenes alone, it would have been in the 3.5-4 star range because they were really good. The action scenes were intense, dramatic and stylistic (especially the climax). Another great thing about this movie is the action sequences have a sense of build-up with their chase scene. It’s the simple but effective cat and mouse trick. Those scenes were well choreographed and they get visceral which is good because Damon does a good job at portraying Bourne is a conflicted man.
While all the action itself was good, I have a problem with the cinematography. The cinematographer is primarily using shaky cam techniques in the action sequences. Shakey cam is a professional camera technique that gives the illusion that you’re seeing the picture like a handheld camera. It’s meant to give the feeling that you’re part of the action. I don’t like shaky cam. I saw it in Star Trek Beyond and now in Jason Bourne. It’s disorientating and feels messy. I have noticed a trend with cinematographers using long takes and shaky cam techniques in action movies. They usually don’t work unless you have a great cinematographer or director. If they do both the shaky cam and the long take at the same time, I am going to freak.
The main issue with the movie is the subplot. It simply doesn’t connect. The subplots and themes are a mere backdrop but it’s transparent they tried to use it to drive the action due to the time they give it. Unfortunately, the subplot that explores the themes of security and privacy doesn’t really gel with the movie. I give them points for trying, but the subplot permeates and hurts the story’s momentum that stopped it from being great. It’s also a subplot that has been in many action movies for the last 3-5 years meaning the movie doesn’t break the mold.
I am appreciative that there is a movie in the action genre that wants to be smart without it feeling forced. All too often, you see too many action (and sometimes superhero) movies that try to be so smart that they border condescension (Batman vs Superman) or try to be clever only to be stupid (London Has Fallen). Jason Bourne is neither of the two, but cannot really grasp the story it’s trying to tell. It is not bad, but nor is it what I hoped for. You can do better, but you can do worse. **3/4