Wow. Bring a barf bag.
Jason Bourne begins with its title character,
David Webb John Cena Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) scrounging a living in underground bareknuckle boxing matches in Southeastern Europe. He’s called out of hiding by his former CIA handler, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who hacked the CIA database and discovered to absolutely no one’s surprise that they’re using the same assassin training methods they used on Bourne in Treadstone under a new two-syllable code name, Ironhand. Bourne is indifferent, but when an assassin (Vincent Cassel) kills Parsons instead of him by mistake, he gets real mad and starts killing people again.
It feels like I just watched a two hour loop of Hillary doing the Nae Nae. Jason Bourne consists primarily of miserable, transparent attempts to convince you it’s something new and current and not something that used to be popular in the ’00s. There’s an intense focus on hacking, even though Hollywood still hasn’t found a good way to represent that visually. There’s the line from the trailer, “We’ve been hacked. Could be worse than Snowden,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s a scene centered around a protest in Greece, and at one point operation director Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) tells someone to isolate all social media posts coming from the square. There’s literally no reason to do this — they’re looking for Bourne and Parsons in the crowd, nobody’s going to Tweet that they saw this super-spy from America that nobody knows about — other than to drop the words “social media” into the movie. There’s this bizarre, completely unrelated plotline with Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the founder of a smartphone platform that CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) wants a backdoor into.
There’s a satanic whistle-blower character Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer), who just hangs out in Berlin and hacks the U.S. government, and this is where the movie starts to cross the line a bit. He tells Bourne that they both want the same thing, “To bring down the corrupt government institutions” — it’s not a very good script, pretty much every line is both specific and vague like that — and then Bourne says something to the effect of “I’m nothing like you,” or whatever. They make a big push to recast the character that lead the charge of anti-government action heroes in the early ’00s as someone who was actually a patriot all along, and all of the shadowy things the government was doing in that time period they totally aren’t doing anymore. I don’t know if the real-life CIA director got a backdoor into the writing process for this movie — it’s an original story, these movies have been way off-book since The Bourne Supremacy — but Jason Bourne is overtly pro-CIA, to the point that I almost think they made some kind of deal with the actual U.S. government over this movie.
The reason you’ll need a barf bag, though, is for literal motion sickness. The earlier Bourne movies have kind of been reduced to a joke about how much the camera hops around — which is fair in the sense that they started that trend, but unfair in the sense that they actually execute it well for the most part. Jason Bourne does not execute it well at all. It almost feels like writer/director/producer Paul Greengrass was making fun of himself here. The camerawork in this movie is catastrophic. Most found footage movies aren’t this tough to follow because they don’t have zoom lenses as another dial to turn completely at random.
The weirdest part is this aggressive camera movement is put forward as a feature of the movie, particularly in the scene in Greece. The scene, if you can tell, is mostly about people walking around, but the movie plays super exciting music and the camera shakes like Elvis. You can barely tell what’s happening and what’s happening isn’t exciting at all, it’s just waiting for the action scene to happen, begging the question, why is the music so excited? My only conclusion is we’re supposed to find the camera shake exciting in and of itself. These were the people who 10 years ago started this trend by doing it in a not-annyoing way, I don’t know what went so badly wrong between now and then.
The last really weirdly bad thing about this movie is how derivative the plot is — it’s essentially a point-for-point remake of The Bourne Supremacy. Not the other Bourne movies, that one. Very specifically that one. It starts with Bourne hanging out in Europe not doing any spy things, then an assassin accidentally kills a woman he’s with while targeting him and he starts doing spy things again. Bourne has a bunch of grainy flashbacks to a major event that will have an impact on the current plot, the full details of which are revealed around the middle of the movie. The plot then becomes about a young lady CIA character using Bourne to take down an older crooked man CIA character, and then it becomes about Bourne seeking revenge on the assassin that screwed up and killed his ladyfriend. It’s the exact same thing.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.