THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
The problem with the motion picture industry these days is that the studios routinely push franchises beyond their breaking point. Once audiences have tired of them, the inevitable reboot comes along to start everything from scratch again. If that doesn't work, they try to jump start interest by going back to the basics. The Bourne franchise exemplifies this trend. Matt Damon left after three very successful installments. Universal wanted to keep it going, so they brought in Jeremy Renner for 2012's The Bourne Legacy. It wasn't as popular without the series' signature star, so Renner is out and Damon is back in for Jason Bourne. But the thrill is gone by this point. The Bourne Ultimatum brought decent closure to things, so trying to prolong the hero's tale only exemplifies how devoid of new ideas this particular sequel is.
The movie opens with an off-the-grid Bourne being given a flash drive of information that specifically details how he gained entry into the program that made him the lethal agent he is. Fearful that he'll use this information against the CIA, the agency's director, Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), sets out to find Bourne and neutralize him. Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee, the CIA's new director of cyber activity who thinks she can bring him back into the fold.
There isn't a whole lot more to the plot of Jason Bourne. It's essentially a two-hour chase in which our hero hops around the globe while we wait impatiently for him to make all the necessary connections. Many scenes in the film – and this is no exaggeration – are of Bourne trying to walk more quickly from one location to another than his pursuers do. He walks through a political protest in another country. He walks through a Vegas casino. He walks and walks. Other people walk quickly through these locations, too. Bourne's Fitbit is going to wear out if he keeps this pace.
There's a motorcycle chase fairly early on, but we've already seen one of those in this series. At the end, there's a ludicrous car chase down the Vegas strip. Perhaps these things would have felt more engaging if Jason Bourne had a substantial story. Instead, it just strings the audience along, promising to give more explanation to things that have already been explained in the previous movies. When the big reveal finally does come (i.e. when Bourne actually puts the last puzzle piece into place), it's literally the exact thing you'd come up with if you were trying to put as little thought into an explanation for his background as you could conceive.
There's a lazy quality to Jason Bourne that's frustrating. You can tell that it's been made more out of financial interest than storytelling inspiration. A couple of supporting characters, most notably a tech genius named Aaron Kalloor (Nightcrawler's Riz Ahmed), are given a fair amount of screen time despite insufficient introduction or story arc establishment. Kalloor has a tie to Dewey which, like Bourne's background, is utterly standard. Meanwhile, a suggestion that Heather might have something against Dewey is barely explained, if it's explained at all. (I certainly didn't catch it.)
Even Matt Damon suffers. Because there really isn't anywhere fresh for the character to go, he has little to do other than to walk quickly and occasionally fight a bad guy. The actor only has about twenty-five lines of dialogue in a picture that runs two full hours. This means that Bourne isn't an identifiable human being here; he's basically a robot, shuffling from one half-baked scenario to the next. There are only so many times he can find out a tiny bit more about himself.
From a technical perspective, the film, directed by Paul Greengrass, is well made, and Vikander proves to be a welcome addition, playing a character who could conceivably be spun off into a solo adventure. The fact remains, though, that Jason Bourne is just covering the same ground that was covered before. That makes it shockingly dull, especially given how intense and exciting its predecessors were.
( out of four)
Jason Bourne is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language. The running time is 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at Lulu.com! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at Amazon.com!