‘Bourne’ series takes step back

Jason Bourne

(Photo by Universal Pictures) Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is back and as tough as ever in the latest movie in the “Bourne” franchise.

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

There have been four “Bourne” films before this new one, “Jason Bourne.”
Actually, you could debate whether the fourth film actually belonged with the others. Released in 2012, it was titled “The Bourne Legacy.” This film did not star Matt Damon, the lead of the previous three films. In the fourth film, Jeremy Renner is the hero, Aaron Cross. Renner’s character was very similar to Bourne, hence the title, “Bourne Legacy.”
When I reviewed “Legacy” in 2012, I concluded that review with the idea that I believed the “Bourne” films had helped the “James Bond” series. The Bond films had become very weak. After the original film, “The Bourne Identity,” was launched, I think the “Bond” filmmakers saw an example of how to make Bond new again. Tougher action and violence, grittier settings is what revived the “Bond” films. “Bond” ultimately became superior to the “Bourne” films once again and after four episodes, “Bourne” seemed to have run its course.
The original three “Bourne” films were successful. The first, “The Bourne Identity,” which opened in 2002 grossed $121 million. The second and third films, “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum” grossed $176 million and $227 million, respectively. The series was obviously growing with each installment, until Matt Damon left.
“The Bourne Legacy” dropped the numbers back down to the original film’s grosses at $113 million. It seemed that audiences were not interested in a “Bourne” film without Matt Damon as Bourne.
Four years later, Damon is back as Bourne. Regretfully, I have to admit I liked the last film without Damon and with Renner, more than I liked this new film. It is not Damon’s fault. He does good work here as Bourne. Tommy Lee Jones plays a villain well. Recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander has the most interesting role in the film because her character actually transforms as the plot unfurls. Julia Stiles also has a pivotal role. Overall the cast is fine.
There are also moments in the plot, not many but some, that work really well. However, there are plenty of other moments that just seemed repetitive. I was chatting with a colleague of mine after the film ended. He asked me what I thought and I said, “It was a lot of running, a lot of talking and several car crashes, but they did those things well.” My friend laughed and then quoted my words to someone else.
I did not intend for that to be a compliment. I guess I was rooting for Bourne to win all those chases and escapes. I guess all those conversations that helped explain the plots of the good guy and the bad ones were necessary, but it all seemed tiresome and distracting. I found myself several times thinking of things other than what happened on screen. The film failed to keep my attention more than once.
Then there is the big final epic car chase that includes a great collision of vehicles on a street in Las Vegas. I know that scene was choreographed and no one was harmed in the filming of that scene. However, I still find the scene disturbing. I guess the action climax did not really work for me, but neither did the rest of it.
I still believe the “Bourne” series inspired the recent “James Bond” films with Daniel Craig as 007, and I am appreciative of that. I only hope if there is a sixth “Bourne” film, it will be more than the fifth one is.

  Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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