Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander
Director: Paul Greengrass
Screenplay: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse
Action/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: July 29, 2016
Well it’s time for a new Bourne movie. I guess it’s Jason Bourne, Again.
Apparently, you can never be Bourne too many times, and once Bourne, you never die. Let’s recap.
We’re introduced to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) as a loner fighting in back alleys and warehouses to make a living. Naturally, he’s invincible. But he spies blonde Nicki Parsons (Julia Stiles) looking for him. He chases her down and relates that he remembers everything about his time as a super spy. She admonishes that “just because you remember everything, doesn’t mean you know everything.” And the two begin a chase scene sponsored by high-level CIA officials in a remote computer room. The CIA activates “The Asset” (Vincent Cassel) to track down and kill Bourne.
The Asset blames Bourne for the torture that the Asset underwent after Bourne released sensitive information. Killing Bourne is also at the top of CIA chief Robert Dewey’s (Tommy Lee Jones) to-do list. But Dewey has to pretend to be open to the possibility that Bourne is “salvageable”, an idea proposed to him by CIA operative Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who is the one person in this movie who takes the time to read Bourne’s file. Lee ends up secretly working with Bourne to take down the corrupt Dewey.
I was leary of watching another Bourne movie. But I liked this story, although it wasn’t that different from Bournes gone by. Despite the fact that Matt Damon has reportedly few lines (25 by some estimates), I felt we were more involved in the relationships in this movie than in other movies this summer. Jason Bourne was all about the infighting of the highers-up in the CIA. We’re also introduced to some of the reasons Bourne was inducted into his program and the reasons he came out of hiding. I had a good time.
Greg, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this film. Yes, it’s a summer popcorn movie, and so you need not engage your brain at all to follow and appreciate the action. And that’s what this movie is, basically — two hours of non-stop action, a taut, tight thriller that relentlessly and effortlessly carries viewers along for the ride. I enjoyed it for what it is, even if I was annoyed at times by the tiresome use of the shaky camera.
As Jason Bourne is part of a series, there really is no character growth per se with regard to our hero, although he does gain some insight into his “origin story”. Still, he is just as unwilling to trust the CIA and return to the organization at the end of the film as he was at the beginning. Bourne remains a dangerous, renegade hero, and that’s what we love about him, even if there is no significant hero transformation going on.
I’d like to add that this movie continues the trend of Hollywood giving women more juicy roles to sink their teeth into. Nicki Parsons, and most especially Heather Lee, are two smart, strong, brave women characters who show the same moxy and charisma as any of their male counterparts. Lee, in fact, is in line to take over for the evil Dewey as head of the CIA, and I look forward to seeing her in this role in the next Bourne film.
Jason Bourne is a classic male hero – he’s tough, smart, good-looking, and is kind to small animals. Matt Damon has done a remarkable job growing this character as he ages. As you point out, Scott, Bourne is an episodic hero and so he ends up at the end of the story very much as he started out. And the reason is so that we can come back to him in the next installment. On the other hand, the characters who surround the episodic hero often transform instead. And this is the case for Heather Lee. She starts out as an underling being trained by a dark mentor, Dewey. But by the end of the film, she is a strong contender for the head of the CIA. That’s a big transformation, especially for a secondary character.
That’s an interesting observation, Greg. If serial heroes don’t change, perhaps these movies hold our interest because the characters around them do. I’ll have to start observing whether this hypothesis holds true. In terms of mentoring, we learn that Bourne was strongly influenced by his father, and in fact Bourne’s strongest motivation for getting at the truth of his origins resides in discovering what really happened to his dad. So in this film we not only have atonement with the father — a classic hero motif — we have atonement FOR the father.
Jason Bourne is an unusually rich action adventure. We gain insight into Bourne’s personality and are filled in on some of his backstory. The action is excellent as it not only kept the plot moving, but also interjected character development simultaneously. That’ a pretty good trick. Jason Bourne is above-average summer fare – so I award it 4 out of 5 Reels.
Our hero, Jason Bourne, does not undergo much of a transformation, which is the key ingredient we seek in our heroes. However, he does help those around him transform – Heather Lee, e.g. But Bourne, despite his killing qualities, displays the elements of heroism we expect. He’s strong, honest, earnest, and he has a burning question that he wants answered. I have a hard time giving Bourne high marks since he’s an episodic hero, and so less interesting than transformational heroes. So I award him 3 out of 5 Heroes.
The main mentoring we see in this film is the dark mentor Dewey as he leads the younger Lee down the path of corruption. She learns the lessons well as she ultimately dispatches Dewey and uses her special knowledge of secret programs to position herself to replace him. Perhaps Dewey did his job all too well. I give this mentor/mentee duo 3 out of 5 Mentor points.
You and I are in complete agreement, Greg, and so I’ll keep my final ratings brief so as to avoid redundancy. Jason Bourne is a taut roller coaster ride of a movie that grabs your attention and holds it for dear life. This film is a nearly flawless portrayal of a hero archetype featuring a man on the run, an individual with great integrity who has been wronged and is trying to make things right. I agree, Greg, that the movie deserves 4 Reels out of 5.
I also concur with your analysis of our hero’s qualities, why he’s interesting, and why he’s a bit less interesting than some of the better transformed heroes in the movies. So like you, Greg, I’m awarding 3 Heroes out of 5. We’ve both offered our insights into the mentoring going on in this film, with Dewey serving as the dark guide and Bourne’s father being the indirect positive influence on our hero Jason. I award these two mentors 3 rating points out of 5.