Franchise Fred Review: Jason Bourne Mopey Mope Mopity Mope
I suppose Franchise Fred should approve a sequel still doing what it does by the fifth entry, but I don’t like what the Bourne series became. It started as a strong modern day spy franchise, but once Paul Greengrass took over it became everything that’s wrong with action movies. People who love his shakycam will get more of that in Jason Bourne, and I guess it’s time for me to admit this is not a franchise for me.
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been living off the grid doing underground fights for cash. When Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finds more information about the past of David Webb, Bourne’s former identity, she brings it to him but the government follows. Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is now heading a program even deadlier than Treadstone. Upstart analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) discovered Parsons’ hack so she convinces Dewey to let her on the case.
It’s a thin premise for bringing Jason Bourne back. After four films (including one about an entirely different character!) we still can’t move past Treadstone. It would be fine if it led to another fun adventure, but Jason Bourne is no fun at all. It’s so determined to prove that Bourne is a tortured hero that it forgets that fighting bad guys and crashing cars is actually pretty cool.
Yet the new story completely undermines the tortured hero premise by letting Bourne off the hook. Early in the film, Parsons reveals that David Webb was manipulated into volunteering for the program. Why have a complex hero who made choices with consequences when you can just say the bad guys did it and mope mope mope?
I’m never going to change Greengrass’s mind about handheld cinematography. The Universal logo is the steadiest shot in the movie. But why should he change? People love it. I’m the A-hole who likes elegant cinematography.
So not only are the action scenes a jumbled mess, but still scenes are too. The camera jerks around when Bourne is leaning against a car after a fight. Greengrass could say it’s to represent his inner turmoil but I say dig a little deeper. Let Matt Damon show us how Bourne is feeling. They zoom in and out on computer screens which betray the notion that handheld is “documentary” style. A documentary filmmaker wouldn’t have to zoom in and out. They’d know where the screen was and focus on it.
It is particularly obtrusive in a scene inside Dewey’s home office. We are inside a calm setting where people are having dialogue. Why would anything be shaking right now? I wish Tommy Lee Jones had told the cinematographer, “Son, you hold that camera still now.”
At least they got Tommy Lee Jones to find Bourne this time. They should have called him first. The man has an impeccable cinematic track record of pursuing elusive heroes and antiheroes.
The fights seem shorter in this film. Perhaps Damon can no longer do extended fight choreography. Jason Bourne could always end a fight quickly, but each of the films would have him face opponents who could throw down with him for a little while. On the other hand, Vincent Cassel has the moves as Asset, the nameless agent Dewey sends after Bourne in the field.
There is a good foot pursuit in London, although it’s just an inferior copy of the Waterloo sequence from Bourne Ultimatum. Stiles gets to be a badass. There is actually an overhead shot during a motorcycle chase that looks great! Why can’t the whole chase be that clear?
Up until now, the Bourne franchise was 50/50 for me. I like the original and The Bourne Ultimatum worked in spite of Greengrass’s style. But Jason Bourne is the tie breaker and now that the results are in, Franchise Fred disapproves.