The original Bourne Trilogy left a significant mark on the history of action/spy cinema. The films are unique and original; they set the bar high for every spy thriller that followed. Jason Bourne, the franchise’s latest installment, tries hard to meet that bar – and has the potential to do so – but it falls short.
To be fair, Jason Bourne is a serviceable action film. It’s an entertaining two hours, and it’s a huge step up from The Bourne Legacy. Matt Damon hasn’t lost his edge one iota, and he steals the show with ease. No, Bourne himself isn’t the problem with this flick; the problem is the story that surrounds Bourne.
This movie tries much too hard to remain relevant. The world of espionage has changed tremendously since The Bourne Ultimatum came out in 2007; the issue of privacy is on everyone’s mind. We’re living in a post-Snowden world, and Jason Bourne will not let its audience forget this. It mentions the infamous “traitor” multiple times as the CIA frantically tries to prevent another hack from going public.
Meanwhile, a tech mogul (Riz Ahmed) is getting ready to roll out a new social media platform that promises total privacy. Unfortunately, he’s being held up by the CIA, who wants a secret backdoor to the system for security purposes. It’s a narrative that sounds extremely familiar to anyone that followed the recent Apple controversy.
I get it, “security vs privacy” is a major issue right now, and the filmmakers wanted to address that. That’s a respectable agenda, but it’s a bit heavy handed at times (most of the time), and it detracts from what the audience actually wants to see – some unadulterated Jason Bourne awesomeness.
The original Bourne Trilogy is so great because the films are more than just formulaic spy thrillers. They break down Jason’s psyche, and tell a very intimate story in the midst of massive action sequences. They aren’t as focused on real world social issues, and they certainly don’t put whatever political agenda they do have ahead of the Bourne story.
Granted, the main story is the absolute best part of Jason Bourne. The new mystery that Jason tries to uncover keeps the audience invested and wanting more. Unfortunately, the privacy subplots just don’t. They instead disrupt the flow, and dilute the otherwise strong plot. Bourne fans want to know more about their favorite former assassin’s past; that’s why they watch the flicks.
So why does this installment spend so much time on a side story that ultimately goes nowhere? Doing so takes away from the personal narrative that made the first three pictures as interesting and iconic as they are. It takes what could have been yet another stellar piece of work, and makes it just another entry in a long line of average spy films.
It’s crazy that, in a movie called Jason Bourne, Bourne takes a back seat to Facebook.
Keeping the focus on the titular character would have been a huge improvement; it’s that simple.