The Reviewinator: Jason Bourne (2016)

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The fifth (or is it fourth?) entry in the Bourne franchise brings back its titular character for another round of hyper-kinetic chase sequences and black-ops conspiracy. Now with all of his memories intact, Jason Bourne has new secrets to learn about himself, as well as his past. And if you had any reservations about the Damon-less The Bourne Legacy, feel comfortable knowing that you can officially write that one off for this, the true sequel to the first three movies. But that may not be as comforting a thought as it sounds.

Many years have passed since The Bourne Ultimatum. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living off the grid, fighting in illegal fight clubs, then going home to brood, never having come to grips with the revelation that he volunteered to become a cold-blooded killer. Meanwhile, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks and attempts to upload secret CIA files to expose her former employers, only to be flagged by their new Cyber Ops Head, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), which renews the CIA’s interest in these matters and begins the hunt for Jason Bourne all over again.

“It’s starting again.” – a line spoken by Nicky Parsons early on, which should be the motto for all unnecessary sequels. Like this one. Rather than create a new story, this movie chooses only to create new secrets for Bourne to discover, resulting in the all-too-familiar stalk/interrogate/chaos routine we’re all used to. Bourne travels from one recognizable city to the next, just like the old days. The new bad guys spend most of their time looking for Bourne on their computer screens, just like the old bad guys. A Bourne-like assassin has been hired to hunt him down, just like Clive Owen, Karl Urban, and whoever that guy in the third movie was. Oh, and the shaky-cam is back, so bring your vomit bags.

Matt Damon carried the first three movies so well. But here, he’s significantly less compelling, less sympathetic. With Bourne’s innocence completely gone and nothing left to fight for, all he really has now is revenge. He never smiles, rarely shows emotion, and hardly even speaks before the film’s end. After being absent for nine years, he simply picks up where he left off. With a time jump like that, it’s important to re-develop the lead. But this Bourne is just a brute with a brain. While no one can picture anyone but Matt Damon in the role, anyone could have played him the way he is in this movie.

Jason Bourne is how not to revive a franchise. It’s 20% innovation, 80% regurgitation. While the action, pacing, and characters fit right in with the Bourne universe, it all gets lost in a sea of over-familiarity. By simply re-spilling the mess they cleaned up the first time, how could they expect us to want to watch them clean it all up again? It’s almost like they were so worried they might not be able to do another sequel that they created a “Bourne Checklist” and ticked all the boxes (and not much else). In a franchise that’s all about surprises and danger, playing it so safe came at the cost of Bourne‘s identity.

2 out of 5

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