Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
In the latest Jason Bourne movie, Matt Damon will punch, kick and spy master his way to the top of the box office charts.
His previous Bourne films, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, were all hits commercially and critically.
Damon says he owes a great deal to the fictional character.
After the early success of Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr. Ripley made him a star, a string of flops cooled his box office appeal.
“Right before The Bourne Identity came out,” he said, “I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year.”
Then his career was Bourne again.
“It’s incalculable how much these movies have helped my career,” he told The Telegraph. “Suddenly it put me on a short list of people who could get movies made.”
In the spirit of “one for them, one for me” for every film like The Martian or the new Jason Bourne, Damon has attached himself to smaller, riskier projects.
He lent his star power to The Good Shepherd, a low budget film directed by Robert De Niro. It’s a spy movie without the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from our favorite undercover operatives.
There are no elaborate chase scenes a la James Bond or even the great scenery of the Bourne flicks.
In fact, the only thing The Good Sheperd shares with any of those movies is Damon, who plays Edward Wilson, one of the (fictional) founders of the CIA.
Despite mixed to good reviews — USA Today gave the film three out of four stars—and winning the Silver Bear of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, the movie barely earned back its production costs at the box office.
Ninety per cent of director Steven Soderbergh’s job on The Informant! was casting this mostly true tale of a highly paid executive-turned-whistleblower who helped uncover a price fixing policy that landed several executives (including himself) in jail.
It’s a tricky balancing act to find an actor who can keep the audience on-board through a tale of corporate malfeasance and personal greed, who can be likeable but is actually a liar and a thief, but Damon is the guy.
The Informant! skewed a tad too far into art house territory to be Soderbergh’s new Erin Brockovich-sized hit, but Damon’s presence kept the story of accounting, paperwork and avarice interesting. Reviews were kind but A Serious Man and The Twilight Saga: New Moon buried the film on its opening weekend.
Damon teamed with John Krasinski to produce and co-write Promised Land, a David and Goliath story that relied on the charm and likability of its cast to sell the idea that fracking is bad and the corporations who dupe cash-strapped farmers into leasing their land are evil.
It’s hard to make talk of water table pollution dramatic but Promised Land makes an attempt by giving much of the heavy lifting to Damon.
Done in by middling reviews and “sobering” box office receipts, this earnest and well-meaning movie might have been better served in documentary form.
With an Oscar on his shelf and more than 70 films on his resume Damon is philosophical about the kinds of films he chooses to make, big or small.
“If people go to those movies, then yes, that’s true, big-time success,” he says.
“Jason Bourne,” the first Matt Damon led film in the series in nine years, proves that actions speak louder than words. Damon speaks a mere twenty-five lines of dialogue as he kicks, punches and crash-boom-bangs his way through this spy thriller, letting the action do the talking.
Damon’s fourth go-round as amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne begins with him tormented by his violent past. Most of his memory is intact, but he’s eaten away by guilt for the terrible things he did as a government programmed killer. “I remember,” he says. “I remember everything.”
To get his ya-yas out he goes all Fight Club, bare-knuckling any and all contenders but he’s drawn back into the international spy game—the movie never met an exotic location it couldn’t use, whether it’s Berlin, Reykjavík, Athens, London or even Vegas—after his former-handler-turned-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tells him of a collaboration between CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, whose face is one forehead wrinkle away from becoming a caricature of an old man) and Silicon Valley kingpin Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). They’re working on Edward Snowden’s worst nightmare, a new program called Ironhead, a system of full spectrum surveillance; watching everyone all the time.
Wanting Bourne out of the way Dewey uses every newfangled asset at his disposal—like state-of-the-art global surveillance—to find the agent before turning to the old ways and bringing in an assassin known as, appropriately enough, The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to take care of business. “I’m going to cut the head off this thing,” says Dewey.
Flitting about the edges of the intrigue is the CIA’s cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who helps Bourne in an effort to keep him away from The Asset’s deadly gaze. “Bringing him in is the smart move,” she says. “There’s no bringing in Bourne,” Dewey says. “He needs to be put down.”
Cue the carnage.
If nothing else “Jason Bourne” proves once and for all that you can’t keep a good man down. Shot, beaten, dropped from a tall building or whatever, he’s the Energizer Bunny of international spies. He just keeps on ticking. We expect that from Bourne and we also demand feral fighting scenes, crazy car crashes and action, action, action. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of Bourne battle and bloodshed and some of it is quite exciting but it doesn’t have the finesse of the earlier films. Director Paul Greengrass’s signature handheld you-are-here style is in place but doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the other films. Often frenetic instead of pulse-racing, the action sequences are frequent but not as memorable as the magazine-in-the-toaster gag from “Bourne Supremacy” or “Bourne Ultimatum’s” hardcover book punch. Still, you might not make it quite to the edge of your seat, but the combo of action and intrigue will shift you out of a reclining position.
“Jason Bourne” has its moments. Damon brings a grizzled power to the role and Vikander is a welcome addition, even if her motives are sometimes are hard to understand. There are interesting messages about online personal rights versus public safety that would have been moot in 2002 when the series debuted, a labyrinthine plot occasionally weighed down with unnecessary exposition and an unhinged Vegas climax—Bourne must really hope that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—that would not be out of place in an Avengers movie. I just wish the ending felt less like an Avengers scene—with cars comically flying through the air—and more like a Bourne moment.
With a plot that seems to have been cribbed from a Spy Movies for Dummies book The Bourne Ultimatum is the weakest of the three Jason Bourne movies. The pulse racing action of the first two installments is still very much in evidence, but the proceedings are brought down by a poor script that could have used a run through the de-clichéifer before cameras rolled.
When we join Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) he’s still on the run. He’s been on the lam for three years ever since he was fished out of the ocean, left for dead with a bad case of amnesia. In his search to reclaim his lost identity he’s slowly putting together the shattered pieces of his life, leaving a trail of havoc and death behind him. He’s a highly trained ex-CIA operative, he knows that much, and in the new Bourne he continues his search of self discovery. On the path to his self awareness a journalist is shot in a crowded train station, cars fly through the air, get blown up and do any number of unnatural and unsafe maneuvers and Bourne displays the kind of fighting technique that would make Hulk Hogan run for cover.
The problem here isn’t Damon, after three installments his minimal portrayal of Bourne is honed to a science, or the action scenes; it’s the cliché ridden writing that bogs down the CIA scenes. When Bourne is in the field the movie is self assured and exciting, but when the “action” heads back to CIA HQ and the behind-the-scenes efforts to locate and exterminate Bourne the movie skids to a halt.
Oscar nominated David Strathairn is perfectly cast as the head of a black ops group empowered with a license to kill; a man whose calm exterior masks his internal viciousness. He’s a great actor, but unfortunately every line that comes out of his mouth here sounds like something recycled from other spy movies. When he barks “We’re on lockdown!” or “I want the area shut down in a four block radius” I wondered what he could have done with the part had he been given something even halfway interesting in terms of a script.
Director Paul United 93 Greengrass knows how to shoot action. There is a hand-to-hand combat scene in Morocco that is as exciting, chaotic and violent as any sequence in the Bourne movies, I just wish he had spent more time on the moments between the mayhem.