Trip Slaymaker ’18
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Jason Bourne does not need to exercise. When you never stop running, jumping, sliding shooting and brooding, exercise just seems like overkill. Though he had taken a hiatus from the franchise, the titular hero is back on board, and Matt Damon has had a pay raise. Longtime fans will greet Jason Bourne as an old friend, though of course he’s a loner who needs to practice his spy moves, and has no time for a social life.
In The movie, simply titled Jason Bourne, we pick up with Bourne essentially where we left him: unclear about his own personal history and leading a very active lifestyle that leaves little time for personal development. He’s in Greece, hiding from the C.I.A. cronies who want to catch or kill him, and bare-knuckle boxes to pass the time. Bourne seems emotionally conflicted, and spends a few scenes splashing water on his face and staring profoundly into the mirror to make sure that it’s very clear.
We feel for him, thanks to some savvy performances from Damon. There isn’t much there, but like any good assassin, Bourne must be blank. A personality would only get in the way of the action, and that must never happen. So the likeable but empty Jason Bourne is shunted from one world city to another, and Matt Damon only needs to convey the most basic human emotions.
The same goes for Julia Stiles’ character, who has appeared in several past installments. She is allowed a few very important sounding lines early on in the movie, and finally brings Bourne out of his exile. Stiles claims to know new information about his history, which is relayed to us in overexposed and flickering flashbacks. Bourne must bring the fight to the C.I.A. officials who were responsible for his terrible hardships, to seek revenge, and protect national security at the same time.
Now that the plot is established, the movie seems to feel there’s no need to talk about it any more. We are swept into the first of the extended action sequences that divide the movie. Bourne must navigate a political uprising that dissolves into rioting while the C.I.A. attempts to capture him. This sequence is visually well conceived, but very long, and even the most kinetic action can begin to feel monotonous. Bourne rides a motorcycle through fire, and makes split-second decisions that defy death, but he stays silent and unaffected through it all.
Tommy Lee-Jones and Alicia Vikander work together at the C.I.A. to monitor and capture Bourne. Both are able to shed some emotion onto the dry script: few actors could make “Bring him down,” or “take him out” sound interesting, but this is all they seem able to say for long swathes of the movie, while Bourne is locked in nonstop action. They all gaze concernedly in C.I.A. headquarters at their gigantic screen, and fumble again and again as Bourne outwits them. This is the formula: Bourne will always appear to have lost the upper hand, only to reveal that he was three steps ahead the entire time. It’s impossible for him to lose, and he has no fear of death.
But what about death? It has no weight in an action movie, and there is no time for reflection. But as Jason Bourne and the assassin played by Vincent Cassel barrel backward through traffic and decimate dozens of cars, it’s hard not to wonder if all of this is really worth Jason’s life. Bourne may be our hero, but if we bring logic into the movie, as one never should in these situations, he is undeniably responsible for a large number of civilian deaths.
That’s a little jarring under the topical lens of some of the brief non-action scenes in Jason Bourne, where characters mention Edward Snowden, and discuss real-world conflict and cyber terrorism. There is even a subplot starring Riz Ahmed from “The Night Of” that involves internet security and government intervention. Ahmed struggled a bit to give his lines the life they needed, but it’s not his fault. Not many actors could have saved that character.
Eventually, Bourne fights all the right people and is allowed to go home. It’s not clear what exactly was stopping him in the first place, but his story was always just there to link the action scenes together.
It’s hard not to be of two minds about a movie like Jason Bourne. It is an action movie through and through, so if you come searching for a plot, abandon all hope. This movie is meant only to entertain by way of a little harmless violence, and the pretense of a spy thriller. Bourne aims to please, and if you can switch off your mind for a little while, you’ll see that it’s a very well made action film, and that’s all it needs to be. Jason Bourne will play at Cinestudio Sept. 22 to 24.
Trip Slaymaker ’18