Opening this weekend is JASON BOURNE, which features the return of both original Bourne Matt Damon, and the director that most succeeded with the franchise, Paul Greengrass. Will this new film with the beloved Good Will Hunting Oscar-winner capture new viewers and the action fans who have followed the travails of the beleaguered former CIA operative from the beginning?
Franchise star Matt Damon has said himself that being a part of the films altered the trajectory of his career. It not only solidified his place on the Hollywood A-list, it allowed him a wider laterality in the future roles for which he would be considered.
There are so many films that amply display Damon’s talent as an actor. From GOOD WILL HUNTING to THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE to SYRIANA, INVICTUS, CONTAGION, ELYSIUM, and, of course, THE MARTIAN, there are lots of opportunities to celebrate the ever-appealing boy-next-door quality he leverages in a wide diversity of stories. Skip this new release, and go straight to the good stuff that represents his great body of work. JASON BOURNE is not among those movies. As a diversion filled with chases, fist fights, fan favorite Damon and new A-lister Alicia Vikander, it is passable, but nearly immediately forgettable. It is, however, better than standing for the same length of time in 100 degree heat…
Once again, and with diminishing explanation, former operative Bourne is searching for answers about his past. Former colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has uncovered some secrets about his past that bring the reluctant, assassin, who is clearly tortured with PTSD, out of hiding. Cue the freakout by folks at CIA headquarters, including director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, who can’t seem to play the role of a man in charge without recalling THE FUGITIVE) and computer expert Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). The hunt for Bourne once again begins. Will they kill him, call him in from the cold, or get him the therapy he needs? If you’ve seen any of the other films, you already know the answer. You also probably already know that the roles for women in this film are frustratingly predictable and of limited character design.
In JASON BOURNE, Damon has no requirement for range or acting skills. His role in this film almost exclusively limits him to scowling, walking fast, and punching or shooting people. There is no nuance, no character arc, no real story to speak of, although one thing is clear about the work required for the actor. He must have had to train like an Olympian for months building his body for the early shot of him shirtless. The credit for his physique goes to trainer Jason Walsh, who said he was thrilled to see the trailer that featured his new muscles become a trending topic online. With that amount of effort, they should have kept him that way for at least long enough to feel the dieting and endless workouts payed off.
The biggest, and strangest action sequence included in the film given its incredibly inappropriate timing, is French actor Vincent Cassel as a villain plowing through people and cars in an armored vehicle, which, while it was shot far before the Bastille Day atrocity in Nice, still creates unfortunate echoes of the recent tragedy.
I have a huge amount of respect and loyalty for Matt Damon and a number of other people involved in this film, but there’s no way around saying it is so far off target that if it that were indicative of Jason Bourne’s skill with firearms, he’d have been dead several movies ago, having no way whatsoever to protect himself.