Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"JASON BOURNE" (2016) Review

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"JASON BOURNE" (2016) Review

When I first learned that Universal Studios had a fifth movie planned for their BOURNE movie franchise, I was pleased. I figured that this new movie would continue the story where both the 2007 film, "THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM" and 2012's "THE BOURNE LEGACY" left off. 

I suspect that some might be wondering to what I am referring. Let me explain. Both movies hinted, especially "THE BOURNE LEGACY" that C.I.A. Deputy Director Pamela Landy might be facing trouble for assisting Jason Bourne aka David Webb in the 2007. In fact, one of the reasons that Deputy Director Noah Vosen and Director Ezra Cramer had chosen her to help track down Bourne in the 2007 movie in the first place . . . to set her up to take a fall in case their efforts to find and kill Bourne go south. Well, it did go south . . . for them. And in the 2012 movie, Vosen accused Landy of committing treason in order to deflect his legal problems from himself and Cramer. So I figured that this fifth movie would pick up the tale. I even considered the possibility of Bourne and fellow C.I.A. fugitives Aaron Cross from the 2012 movie, working together to help Landry. Well, that did not happen. As it turned out, star Matt Damon and screenwriter/director Tony Gilroy had a falling out over the screenplay for the 2007 movie. Jeremy Renner starred in the 2012 movie and Gilroy did not participate in this new film's production.

So, what was "JASON BOURNE" about? Written by Christopher Rouse and Paul Greengrass, who served as director of this film, the 2007 movie and 2004's "THE BOURNE SUPREMACY"; the movie centered around Jason Bourne's attempts to discover more about his past with the C.I.A. and especially Treadstone. This all began when former Treadstone colleague Nicky Parsons, who has joined a hackvist group, hacks into the CIA's mainframe server in order to expose the CIA's black ops programs. Parsons finds documents that concern Bourne's recruitment into the Treadstone program and his father's role in the program. Both Bourne and Parsons meet at Syntagma Square during a violent anti-government protest in Athens, Greece; where she informs him with this new information. At the same time, Parsons' hack alerts Cyber Ops Division Head Heather Lee and CIA Director Robert Dewey. Dewey sends a black ops team and a former Blackbriar assassin nicknamed "The Asset" to kill Parsons and Bourne. More importantly, Dewey wants to shut down any loose ends regarding the C.I.A.'s black ops programs, including the latest one, "Iron Hand" (a collection of the previous ones - Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome and LARX). That means destroying the hackvist group to which Parsons belonged; killing Bourne; Parsons; CEO social media site Deep Dream Aaron Kalloor, with whom he had become estranged; or anyone else who might be a threat. He also wants to use Kalloor's Deep Dream site for real-time mass surveillance of the public.

Eventually I realized that "JASON BOURNE" was not going to continue the narratives of "THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM" and "THE BOURNE LEGACY" and set about enjoying this latest entry in the franchise. And there was a good deal to enjoy about this movie. First of all, "JASON BOURNE" featured some top notch performances. Matt Damon gave a pretty solid performance as an older and more world weary Jason Bourne aka David Webb, who seemed to have resigned himself to an existence of wandering, participating in illegal fight rings and loneliness. Tommy Lee Jones was also excellent as Robert Dewey, the current and ruthless C.I.A. Director who feels threatened not only by outside forces like Bourne, Nicky Parsons, a hackvist group and an angry social media CEO, but especially from the likes of his ambitious colleague, Heather Lee. Julia Stiles returned with another excellent performance as Nicky Parsons, an ex-C.I.A. operative-turned-hackvist. Vincent Cassel gave a very intense performance as former Blackbriar assassin, "The Asset", who harbors a grudge against Bourne, whose exposure of the black ops program led to him being captured and tortured. The movie also featured pretty good performances from Ato Essandoh, Riz Ahmed, Scott Shepherd, Bill Camp, Vinzenz Kiefer and Gregg Henry (who portrayed Bourne's late father in flashbacks). But for me, the most interesting performance came from Alicia Vikander, who portrayed C.I.A. Cyber Ops Division head, Heather Lee. Vikander's Lee was a curious mixture of raging ambition, an introverted personality and a ruthless talent for manipulation.

The movie also featured some excellent action sequences. Yes, I realize that it signaled a return to Paul Greengrass' shaky camstyle. But to be honest, different movie industries have been utilizing this style for about a decade. Personally, I wish they would get over it. But despite this, I still enjoyed this movie's action sequences. I found the Athens sequence rather exciting. Greengrass and Rouse upped the scale by allowing it to take place during an anti-government protest . . . at night. Another action sequence that impressed me occurred in London, where Bourne contacted a former Treadstone surveillance operative named Malcolm Smith for information about his father. But if I had to choose my favorite action sequence in Las Vegas, where Bourne attempted to prevent Dewey from getting rid of his increasingly troublesome former ally, CEO Aaron Kallor during a technology convention and Lee. 

Despite these cinematic virtues, I had walked away from "JASON BOURNE" feeling disappointed. What was my main problem? Quite frankly, Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse's screenplay. I found it contrived, unoriginal and filled with some questionable plot holes. A closer look at this movie made me realized that it strongly reminded me of the plot for "THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM". In both movies, Bourne found himself drawn into the story by an individual bent upon exposing the C.I.A.'s black ops programs. In this movie, it was former agent Nicky Parsons. In the 2007 film, it was a British journalist. Both ended up murdered within the movie's first thirty-to-forty minutes. That is correct. Poor Nicky shared the same fate as Marie Kreutz - fridged for the sake of the main character. I tolerated it once, but not this time. In both movies, the main villain decides to go after Bourne because he feared the former assassin might expose his current schemes. And once again, this movie exposed another disturbing secret regarding Bourne's past.

Speaking of the latter, this one aspect of the movie's plot really annoyed me. What was the secret in Bourne's past? Apparently his father - a C.I.A. official named Richard Webb - was the true creator of the Treadstone program. When I first heard this, I was . . . well to be honest, I simply did not care. But when I heard that Webb Senior was murdered because he tried to stop his son's recruitment into Treadstone, my apathy transformed into contempt. And when the movie revealed that it was Dewey who had ordered Webb Senior's assassination, I shook my head in disbelief. How was that possible? Were audiences really supposed to believe that Dewey was an official part of the Treadstone program? Since when? To make matters worse, Greengrass and Rouse had marked "The Asset", a former Blackbriar agent, as the one who committed the murder. I found this revelation to be ridiculously contrived and I officially washed my hands of this movie.

Yes, I realize that I found the performances and action sequences something to admire about "JASON BOURNE", thanks to director Paul Greengrass and a cast led by Matt Damon. Many fans had cheered that Damon had resumed as lead in the BOURNE film franchise. Yes, it was nice to see him again. But to be honest, I never had a problem with Jeremy Renner or the actual movie he had starred in - namely "THE BOURNE LEGACY". Hollywood legend Darryl F. Zanuck had once pointed out - the backbone of a good movie is the story. Yet, despite the virtues in "JASON BOURNE", I found its main narrative unoriginal, contrived and questionable. And in the end, the movie eventually disappointed the hell out of me.

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