More noise than signal

Jason Bourne

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

Now, it must be said that I was very impressed by the first entry in the Bourne franchise, which for my money is the best action-led espionage outing of 2000s, rivalled only by a film that stole liberally from it, Casino Royale. As the sequels rolled in, they were certainly enjoyable but a feeling of diminishing returns set in, and it became apparent that the were more or less the same film, with slightly different names. But after the drop in enjoyment caused by making the same film with a different actor, I was open to revisiting the new Matt Damon starring, Paul Greengrass directed flick.

Julia Styles’ Nicky Parsons tracks down Bourne (Damon), currently scratching out a living off grid in the bare-knuckle boxing circuit, and tells him of information pertaining to his past, at which point your Deja Vu Meter may need to be reset.

Turns out it’s concerning his father and, of course, the creation of the Treadstone program, or Blackbriar, or whatever codename the first film was about, but before she can spill the beans she’s bumped off, leading to Bourne having to seek out the hacker Parsons was working for.

While this hacker wants to take all the information public, Bourne’s not interested, which is ironic as it’s his disclosure of information in the previous films, apparently, I can’t remember that part but I’ve no reason to doubt it, that paints him as public enemy No. 1 to CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), and the Asset he reactivated to deal with / murder Bourne, played by Vincent Cassel.

Well, that’s pretty much your setup for Bourne being chased, until a rouge subplot emerges regarding a Facebook analogue headed by Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) that threatens obliquely to reveal the access the CIA have had to their users information and revoke that, creating a bigger problem for Dewey and his Asset to deal with. However, ambitious CIA operative Heather (Lee Alicia Vikander) sees this as an opportunity to gain a promotion by dead man’s boots and cuts a deal with Bourne to have him save Kalloor and, as a byproduct, take out the people obsessed with capturing or killing Bourne.

So, the same film again then, but with an older cast, at least when looked at from arms length. Unfortunately, the magic’s not there this time. I don’t mean to imply that this is anything less than a really competently put together film, but not one that’s deviating much from its established playbook and consequently not one that’s particularly engaging

While I’m wary of making this argument, as both in better condition than I am, Damon is 45 and Cassel is 49. The Climactic fight therefore has a bit of the Moore-era Bonds to it. A bit of the town drunks fighting in a pub car park. It doesn’t make for a dynamic and impactful fight sequence to end on, and given the power of the earlier films in that regard it’s a terrible let down.

It’s attempt to reframe itself in a post-Snowden age I suppose must be done, but it’s led to some of the most idiotic “computers are magic” moments on camera yet. I’ll take the CIA being able to take complete control of German CCTV systems on faith, but there’s a scene where the presence of a (somewhat anachronistic) circa 98 dumb phone, a Nokia 5110-esque thing, leads Heather Lee to exclaim that she can use that phone to delete files off a laptop in the same room, one that’s in no way connected to the phone, because of malware, apparently, displaying a worrying misunderstanding of both computers and phones.

It’s fine, but it’s nothing special, and I think the series has now completely run out of the fumes that made the first film great. Time for bed, Mr. Bourne.