Thursday, 28 July 2016

Review: Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne
Cert: 12A / 123 mins / Dir. Paul Greengrass / Trailer

Jason Bourne uses a key he has been given to retrieve sensitive material which has been placed in an otherwise unidentified locker for him. Among the weapons and passports is a black USB drive containing encrypted data. We know it's encrypted because the drive has the word ENCRYPTED embossed into it in 36pt white Helvetica caps.

^^ That's what Post-Snowden™ filmmaking means, apparently. Well, that and putting the word "Snowden" into the script every fifteen minutes or so, in a bid to resonate with the audience who'll have heard the name but know little of the situation surrounding it. Although we'll come back to that demographic of viewer in a while.

And so we're back, this fifth installment of the franchise making reference to the fourth one with about the same frequency and fondness as its marketing campaign (which is to say not at all)*1. Jason Bourne (Mr Damon) is making a tidy living off-the-grid by punching people in car-park punching competitions, when former-CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Ms Stiles) tracks him down in a bid to get his face onto CCTV cameras throughout European capital cities. By absolutely no coincidence at all, the CIA (Mr Lee Jones and Ms Vikander) pick up on this. Because it's 2016, there are also heavy-handed references to social-networking and privacy-vs-security issues, courtesy of Mr Ahmed. Anyway, carnage ensues.

Now, I've been quite facetious about the whole thing so far, but Jason Bourne*2 is actually a fairly entertaining film. Tonally, it runs a middle-ground between the first three movies' habit of belligerently withholding plot-points from the audience, and the fourth one's habit of spoon-feeding them instead. Despite repeatedly lunging for the zeitgeist with both hands, the film brings little new to the genre (or to the series, in fact), but it's reliably solid nonetheless.

The performers are something a mixed-bag, as we've come to expect. Julia Stiles acts the part but has trouble delivering her clunky dialogue with any real commitment. Meanwhile, Alicia Vikander fares slightly better, but seems to have joined in with the whole espionage-thing by changing her accent every twelve minutes. And Tommy Lee Jones struggles with his inability to personify anyone other than Tommy Lee Jones™, second only to Matt Damon's identical debilitation. You're constantly reminded that you're watching the cast, rather than the characters, but when they're this good anyway, it doesn't de-rail the movie.

I don't think this entry is the best in the series, and yet I say that as someone who hasn't particularly loved that series anyway. Despite my (manifold) gripes, the early installments were far more robust in terms of film-making. But the sequel-klaxon is duly sounded here, so I'm sure Mr Greengrass will be having another go.

Jason Bourne is either a self-aware, modern tour-de-force which simultaneously entertains and philosophises with the audience using a combination of action and meta-reconnaissance, or it's a cheap-ass thriller using the Bourne-brand as a pass to ride with the big-boys, using shaky-cam to overcome the 12A restrictions on graphic violence and using the climate of techno-paranoia as an inadequate smokescreen for bullshit, clichéd machismo.

It's definitely one of those, but I'll admit it's enough fun either way...

Best line: a scene early in the film shows a covert hacking-hub in Greece. Among the controlled chaos within as activists bustle around the operations centre, one line is subtitled for the audience from the Greek: "...use SQL to disrupt their databases!". Now, given that SQL is a programming language designed for building and managing databases, that's a bit like saying "use the custard to disrupt their trifle!" and is indicative of a script which hurls faux-technobabble at the audience hoping they won't have any real knowledge of the subject(s) being discussed. This level of unwieldy background noise runs throughout the film, of course, but it's the fact that this line is translated and presented on-screen which makes it stand out, blowing its own cover instantly. This is the best use of 'I don't know what that means but I'll write it anyway' since "They're ready to go... the hashtags will tip them over!" back in April.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
I'm going to go right ahead and say Bastille Day, even though this isn't as much fun.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you like 'em big and loud.
You won't lose too much by watching this at the tail-end of a Bourne-marathon in your living room

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
As amiable as it is, not quite because it takes itself so seriously.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This movie stars Riz 'Bodhi Rook' Ahmed.
It's okay that reference will be familiar soon enough, trust me.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 I don't care what people say, I quite enjoyed The Bourne Legacy. I mean, I've never felt the need to watch it again since, but I quite enjoyed it.

*2 Really though, what kind of title is that? We're used to them being a bit more dynamic, springboarding off the borderline-pun of The Bourne Identity (because he wasn't 'born' with it; do you see?). Anyway, I've thought of some better titles if they want to ret-con it for the DVD release...
• The Bourne-Broker
• The Bourne Cocktail
• From Dusk Till Bourne
• Hung, Bourne and Quartered
• Bourne Free
• Bourne Again

Seriously Universal, hit me up. No need to pay me, a mention in the credits will be fine…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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