Blu-ray Review: ‘Jason Bourne’

You know is name. Bourne. Jason Bourne. And he has a license to run. Well, he did. Now, nine years after his last outing as JB, Matt Damon returns to the popular action franchise for more espionage shenanigans only this time his running has been replaced by quick walking and occasional jog, I guess to get those 10,000 steps on his Fitbit. Damon and director Paul Greengrass have booted Jeremy Renner, star of The Bourne Legacy (sorry Jeremy). Also missing is Tony Gilroy, who has written all of Damon’s Bourne movies and wrote and directed Legacy. Whether there was some dissension in the ranks I’m not sure, but Gilroy’s absence is surely felt. The action is what we’ve come to expect, especially under Greengrass’s shaky-cam direction, but the story is maudlin and makes the audience not care much about Bourne and his latest transcontinental escapades. Jason Bourne is not a complete disaster, just disappointing. It’s the reactionary akin to knowing your parents are mad at something you did only they sugarcoat it in acknowledging disappointment.

With an empty dance card, there’s no need for Julia Stiles to save the last dance. And yet she joins Damon in returning to the franchise as Nicky Parsons. She kicks off the film hacking into the CIA computers to retrieve some info about their black ops. Different nomenclature but seems to be the same black ops which were exposed in the original trilogy. The information uncovered is about Richard Webb, Jason Bourne’s (real name David Webb) father and his own involvement with the CIA. Crossing the globe she finds Jason in Athens living off the grid making ends meet as a bare-knuckle brawler. Once he learns that the CIA may have been involved in his father’s death, Jason is back in the game, Godfather style.

A spinning roulette wheel of esteemed actors playing CIA directors sees the white ball land in the Tommy Lee Jones hole. Strangely, he seemed happier playing arms dealer Max Adams in Jason Statham’s The Mechanic: Resurrection this past summer. As CIA Director Robert Dewey, Jones barks orders that do little in the way of apprehending or finding Jason Bourne. And to think he won an Oscar for barking commands as Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard in The Fugitive. Alicia Vikander plays a cyber expert for the CIA and her character is less emotive than the humanoid robot she played in Ex Machina. The young Oscar winner is totally out of her element and it shows in her performance.

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So where does that leave Matt Damon, who now replaces Leonardo DiCaprio in the What-do-I-need-to-do-to-win-an-acting-Oscar discussion? Well, I’ll need to double check but he may have less lines than Tom Hardy did in Mad Max: Fury Road. His presence as Jason Bourne is to play the role of McGuffin to spur the story along in trying to find out the responsible party for his father’s death. Come on, Jason, you know the score by now. It’s a game of checkers not chess.

The subject of a social network to be used as a tool of the CIA to keep tabs on millions worldwide is brought in as a subplot with Riz Ahmed (star of HBO’s limited series The Night Of) as the Silicon Valley billionaire who designed it. Huh? Thankfully we get a visual tutorial on how the security platform will work. (Excuse me. I have been handed a note informing me that there is no visual screenshot of how the social network is utilized. Wow. Now that’s just bad filmmaking.)

Okay, let’s put the storytelling issues to the side for the moment and focus on the good: the action sequences. While Paul Greengrass and his personal preference to go for handheld photography – and which has ultimately affected most of today’s action films, filmmaking and editing – may have you swallowing some motion sickness pills beforehand, there’s no mistaking his passion to do as much with the camera and use as little CGI as possible. When it comes to chase sequences you’d be hard pressed to find a contemporary filmmaker that crafts better scenes. Sure, you have the car eye candy of the Fast & Furious series but the motorcycle chase in Athens in the early half of Jason Bourne is very dexterous in terms of movement and avoidance. But the most impressive is saved for last: a big chase on Las Vegas’s famed Strip using real cars, real explosions, and real crashes. The highlight is a vehicle driving into the Rivera casino, which was already scheduled for implosion. If you have the proper A/V set up at home, this scene is worthy of demoing in front of fellow cinephiles.

Rather than give us some semblance of a conclusion, audiences are left on the lurch. The Jason Bourne character and Matt Damon are a successful draw overseas (hence Damon’s casting in the China-shot The Great Wall), so while Jason Bourne left some with a shrug, it was better than whatever the hell filmgoers received with Bruce Willis’s famed John McClane character in A Good Day to Die Hard. Plan on another Bourne installment in 2019/2020. And if Tony Gilroy is reading this, please come back to the franchise. You are its only hope.

There are a myriad of ways to watch Jason Bourne on home video. My way is the 4K Ultra HD (UHD) release. Removing the metallic slipcover with Matt Damon brandishing a gun and pointing it out of frame, reveals a 4K UHD/BD/Digital HD combo pack. The 4K UHD and BD are housed on opposite sides of the standard keepcase. The paper insert contains a code to obtain an UltraViolet or iTunes digital copy of the movie.

In terms of bells and whistles, the video and audio are quite impressive. Black levels are strong, best in indoor environments. The color during the Las Vegas chase, with the Strip all lit up is impeccable. Even better is its featured immersive DTS X audio track. Not near the level of say Mad Max: Fury Road, but your ears will not be disappointed. Dialogue is mostly up-front, though in scenes involving crowds rear speakers provide the viewer an in-the-moment immersive experience. Beyond the DTS X lossless track, both the UHD and BD have a DTS Headphone X track as well as a Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD track, a French 5.1 DTS track, and an English DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, Spanish and French.

For viewers who love behind-the-scenes supplements, I’m sorry to say but Jason Bourne is severely lacking. What is available is a series of short, EPK-style featurettes on the making of the movie (“Bringing Back Bourne”), the physicality of the action (“Bourne to Fight”), and the design of both chases in Athens and Las Vegas (“The Athens Escape,” “Las Vegas Showdown”).

My colleague, Dave Morales, and I disagree when it comes to rating Jason Bourne. (He called it “the best Bourne yet.”) I’m in the camp of more action than intrigue. Tony Gilroy’s absence from the writer’s room is felt in the story department. The fifth Bourne release has some good set pieces that are worth a watch, but this is definitely the least impressive of the Bourne series, including the Matt Damon-absent The Bourne Legacy.

Movie: 6/10
A/V Presentation: 9/10
Extras: 4/10
Overall: 6/10

Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language)
Running Time: 123 Minutes

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