Jason Bourne (2016) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): The Bourne Redundancy

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As I watched “Jason Bourne” during this Wednesday evening, my mind kept making comparisons while feeling the increasing detachment toward actions presented on the screen. Although it serves us with gritty, intense action sequences as busily hopping around different locations along with its lone hero, the movie suffers from the inherent lack of what makes its better predecessors so interesting and exciting, and it feels repetitive at every point even though the people behind it try as much as they can.

At the beginning of “The Bourne Identity” (2002), CIA agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) happened to become totally amnesiac due to the disastrous failure of his latest assassination operation, and he soon found himself in a very dangerous and confusing situation as trying to know who the hell he was. That movie and its two following sequels “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) revolved around his perilous journey of self-discovery and redemption, and it seemed around the finale of “The Bourne Ultimatum” that he finally attained what he had struggled and fought for.

Around 10 years have passed since that point, but Bourne still looks troubled when we meet him at the beginning of “Jason Bourne”. Although he does know now who he really was both before and after he volunteered for a top secret CIA program, but he has been aimlessly drifted around the world while still hiding from the watchful global monitoring of CIA, and we see him throwing himself into an illegal fistfight match held somewhere in the Eastern Europe region.

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Not long after that, a figure from his past suddenly appears in front of him. Nicolette “Nicky” Parsons (Julia Stiles), an ex-CIA agent who came to cross over the line as helping Bourne in “The Bourne Ultimatum”, recently managed to extract a heap of top secret computer files from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and some of them are involved with something Bourne must know for a certain personal reason.

Not so surprisingly, the people in CIA have already come into the picture when Parsons contacts Bourne. Like many high-ranking CIA officials before him, the CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is determined to get rid of a rogue agent who gave so many troubles and headaches to the agency and will definitely cause more problems. Besides the files about those obsolete secret programs including the one Bourne volunteered for, Parsons also stole the ones associated with the latest secret program called Ironhand, and its public disclosure is certainly the last thing wanted by Dewey as well as Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the young CEO of a major social network service company who has covertly collaborated with Dewey in exchange of his business success.

As Bourne eventually runs as before, the director/co-screenplay writer Paul Greengrass dutifully sticks to his action formula which was established in “The Bourne Supremacy” and then has influenced other action films including recent James Bond movies. As the cinematography Barry Ackroyd’s agitated handheld camera reaches for urgency and verisimilitude, the co-screenplay writer/editor Christopher Rouse, who won an Oscar for his superb work in “The Bourne Ultimatum”, busily juggles many different things as actions are frantically and chaotically unfolded on the screen. This visual approach can be quite disorienting or distracting to some audiences, but Greengrass is a filmmaker who knows how to convey the visceral sense of physical impacts to his audiences even when he goes all the way for chaotic actions, and the movie sometimes becomes quite tense and ferocious as intended while lots of things get crashed here and there during its well-made action sequences.

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However, the movie ultimately failed to engage me, mainly because of the fact that its hero’s character arc was completed a long time ago. When “The Bourne Legacy” came to us with another CIA agent hero in 2012, I pointed out how he is far less interesting in comparison as a guy who knows who he is in contrast to Bourne, and now the same thing can be said about Bourne here. While there is a mystery involved with his dead father, you will not be surprised a lot by the truth behind it, and the movie strangely does not delve much into how Bourne has dealt with his true identity during his dormant period. Did he ever visit people who knew him before his CIA years? Or did he just choose to continue to live as Jason Bourne as ordained by his torturous fate?

With his engaging ordinary guy persona which was effectively used in his recent Oscar-nominated turn in “The Martian” (2015), Matt Damon shows again admirable commitment to his character as he did in his previous three Bourne movies, though he is stuck with less things to do in this case. Maybe because he knew that his role was a pretty bland thankless job, Tommy Lee Jones seems to be saving his energy for something far juicier to come in the future, and Alicia Vikander, who recently dazzled us with a series of wonderful performances including her Oscar-winning turn in “The Danish Girl” (2015), is woefully under-utilized as a CIA agent who has different thoughts on Bourne in contrast to her adamant boss. While Vincent Cassel is criminally wasted as a ruthless CIA assassin, Riz Ahmed, a promising British actor who has become more prominent since I noticed him in darkly absurd terrorist comedy film “Four Lions” (2010), leaves more impressions than the other supporting performers in the film. There is always a certain degree of unpredictability about how his character will function in the whole story, and that makes Ahmed constantly interesting to watch.

Like “The Bourne Legacy”, “Jason Bourne” is a redundant blockbuster action film which is not boring but unsatisfying, and it is disappointing especially when you consider the numerous dependable talents gathered for its production. I do not know whether it will be followed by another sequel as hinted during its final minutes, but I may be interested in how they will decide on the title of that possible new sequel, which will surely not be named “The Bourne Redundancy”.

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