Jason Bourne feels like a rebuttal from director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon to the Bourne Legacy’s attempt to expand the Bourne universe without Jason Bourne. It’s as though they’re trying to say, “This is how you make a Jason Bourne movie.” And to emphasize the most important element, they even named it Jason Bourne. While it’s clear that Greengrass and Damon know exactly what it is that makes a Bourne movie work, it’s also clear that they struggled to come up with a really good reason to bring the character back in the first place. The trilogy of Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum had such a perfect sense of symmetry and provided such a satisfying character arc for Jason Bourne that it was hard to imagine what could possibly be added. Apparently the answer to that is “nothing,” for this new Bourne movie doesn’t add anything new to the character or his journey, but instead retreads some familiar territory while also tossing in some elements to make the film’s events seem frighteningly relevant. In the end, however, that simply leaves with a Bourne movie that while good and entertaining, it’s also one that ultimately is unsatisfying.
Let’s deal with the unsatisfying element first, as that’s the part fans are most likely to latch onto and react against. It’s rare for any trilogy of movies to maintain quality throughout and provide proper closure at the end. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to name more than a handful, but near the top of that list would be the Bourne trilogy. Our hero goes through a complete journey, all the loose ends are properly tied up, and there’s a wonderful sense of symmetry from beginning to end, even to the first and last images of the films. One walks away from the last Bourne film with a satisfying sense of closure. Well, Jason Bourne undoes that satisfied feeling; it has to in order to justify its existence. Unfortunately, it also ends with dissatisfaction; which again it has to if there are to now be more of these films. It has to undo the perfect closure of the trilogy and now leave things unresolved. The problem is I don’t like having my satisfied closure being taken away. I liked knowing that everything worked out and all was well; except that it wasn’t because this movie needed to be made. The biggest contributing factor to that sense of dissatisfaction is the fact that Jason Bourne doesn’t really add anything to Jason’s journey. The first three movies continually propelled the character forward, while this movie merely fills in some of the blanks of his past. While some of that is interesting, it doesn’t really take Jason anywhere new, it just gives him some reason to throw fists, ride motorcycles, and have terse, cryptic conversations. Thus, I left Jason Bourne having enjoyed a fun action movie, but at the cost of the satisfaction and sense of closure that was provided by the end of the previous trilogy.
However, it is fun to see Bourne back in action again. This film delivers on all the thrills and excitement one would expect from Jason Bourne; including the shaky camera, crazy car chases, fast-flying fisticuffs, and Bourne adapting and thinking on his feet, using what’s around him to out-wit and defeat his pursuers. It’s all fun, and exactly what you’d expect, which may be why it also all feels a bit too familiar. Instead of adding high points to the franchise, Jason Bourne seems content to repeat all the high points of the past. There’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before, and probably have seen Bourne do better, but that doesn’t detract from how fun it all is.
Still, it’s hard to take some of this very seriously. When Bourne states in a determined, threatening tone, “This all ends tonight,” I couldn’t help but think; Didn’t you already say that before? Didn’t you already end it all once before? And then, of course, it doesn’t all end because there’s still the possibility this franchise could make some more money, so instead of closing the door like they firmly did at the end of Ultimatum, this time they leave it cracked open; just in case. While Jason Bourne may get a chance to end things and then end things again, we will only ever get one ending. We will on get one chance to get it right, to make the most of our life, to make our life count. The Bible says it is appointed once for a man to die, and after that, we will face judgement (Hebrews 9:27). No reboots, no second chances to extend the franchise of our lives; just one ending, and that’s it. So the question is, how do we make that ending a good one? How do we ensure that our one chance isn’t wasted? I don’t have all the answers for that, but I do know this; a life lived for self and self alone will not lead to a good ending. It’s said that Bourne is a patriot, and that’s why even when his own government is after him, he can’t help but live and fight for others. What about you? What do you live for, and how will your life end? Those questions don’t have to linger with uncertainty; there are answers worth exploring *cough* the Bible *cough*, if one is bold enough and courageous enough to engage in that kind of adventure.
Perhaps the better thing to do when it comes to the Bourne franchise is to watch Jason Bourne, and then go back and watch the other films. Jason Bourne is good, but the others are far better. Watching the trilogy first only highlights how well made and tightly scripted they were, which makes this latest addition seem derivative and unnecessary; which it is, but as far as derivative and unnecessary sequels go, it’s not that bad.
Score: 4 of 7 – Jason Bourne has some intense moments as an action flick, but it’s never gratuitous, brutal or gory. It is, however, rather dreary and cynical, which is a shame, because there was a time where the name Bourne was synonymous with hope.