Film #258: Jason Bourne (2016)

jason-bournedirector: Paul Greengrass
language: English, and a bit of Greek and other European languages in the background
length: 123 minutes
watched on: 6 Jan 2017 (plane 1/3)

The Bourne series, with the notable exception of a certain sequel from a couple of years ago, was always one of my favourites growing up. For some reason I could never get into James Bond, but I found this series exciting. Of course, James Bond became more like Jason Bourne later, but I digress. I was looking forward to this movie, as Matt Damon was in it again and it was supposed to be pretty good, but I missed it in the cinema, and decided to watch it on my recent flight back to Japan after New Year.

A lot of themes tie in to Snowden pretty well – indeed, Snowden is name-checked at least once or twice by the film. The makers are trying to keep the series up to date with current affairs, it seems. Perhaps a couple of years out-of-date, though – the other major event is the Athens protests, featured in the opening act, which I think were in 2014 or 2015. Things are moving so fast recently!

Jason Bourne in this movie is trying to work out who his father is and why he died, still trying to work through the fog of amnesia, still gradually gaining his memory back. A lot of the film follows a similar plot to the first movie – he’s also followed from afar by a girl in the CIA, and he’s still seen as a major threat, but also someone they want to reintroduce into the fold. It still ends with that Moby song on the soundtrack. It still has a grumpy old man giving out the orders – this time it was Tommy Lee Jones (who I still have trouble telling apart from Robert DeNiro, for shame!), instead of Brian Cox in the first movie.

But like Snowden, it’s lost something of the spark of the first movie. The motives of the characters aren’t so interesting, for one thing, but I also found that the music was overused to try and ramp up dramatic tension. Even in scenes that should have been a breather between action setpieces (mainly the motorbike chase in Athens and a big car chase in Vegas later), the music is still beating on at machine-gun pace. I watched some characters walking up an escalator in an airport to that kind of music, as if something terrible was about to happen right then (it wasn’t). I found this very literally tiring, and started dozing off later on in the movie. I want to hearken back to Mad Max, actually: while I found that a very intense action movie, I never found it boring, and it also knew when to give its audience a brief breather. It also didn’t rely on trite CGI like Jason Bourne (and Snowden).

It’s a fun movie to an extent, but it’s not the return to form that I’d hoped it would be. I’m tempted to go back to The Bourne Identity to remind myself how these movies should be – with more of an element of surprise or tension throughout the movie because of the setup of Bourne’s amnesia, not desperately trying to cling to what tension they have left with mere musical cues. It’s a much better movie. This is just attempting to be nostalgia and not hitting the mark.

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