Years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, former CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) resurfaces just as his former employers are implementing a new program aimed at hunting him down. Now fully recovered from his amnesia, Bourne teams up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) to uncover the ultimate truth about his past and his family while simultaneously exacting revenge and eluding capture by the government forces hot on his trail. Paul Greengrass returns to helm this sequel, with Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassel co-starring. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi
Note: Portions of this review can also be found in my coverage of the Blu-ray release of Jason Bourne.
Note: Portions of this review can also be found in my coverage of the Blu-ray release of Jason Bourne.
After an almost decade-long absence from the screen, Matt Damon returns to one of his most popular roles and Director Paul Greengrass (who helmed the prior two Damon entries in this series) joins him. However, writer Tony Gilroy (who wrote all the Bourne movies up until now) – be it because he was otherwise committed, uninterested, or perhaps has had a falling out with either Damon or Greengrass – doesn't return, and it's the lack of Gilroy that proves to be 'Jason Bourne's Achilles' heel. This movie has all the action one hopes to see in a 'Bourne' flick, but it's lacking a meaningful screenplay to get us to care about anything happening on screen. It's far from a disaster, but it is a disappointment.
The movie opens with Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) hacking into the CIA computers to retrieve some info about their current black ops – which, perhaps not surprisingly, seems exactly like their old black ops that were exposed in the original trilogy of films. While there, she's able to uncover some additional information about Richard Webb, Jason Bourne's (aka David Webb) father and his own involvement with the CIA. Nicky tracks down Bourne in Athens, who has been making his living "off the grid" and obtaining money by fighting (think Rambo at the beginning of Rambo IIII). Once Jason learns that the CIA may have had something to do with his father's death, he's back in the game...not that it would matter anyway, since the CIA already is tracking them both.
The CIA director is played here by Tommy Lee Jones, who has all the charisma here of a guy who can't wait to get his paycheck and get out of this movie. He spends many of his scenes barking commands like "Get him!" and "Find him!" and the rest just sneering and trying to look villainous. Matching Jones in lifelessness is Alicia Vikander, playing a CIA cyber expert who doesn't necessarily agree with the director's actions. Vikander may be an Oscar winner (for The Danish Girl), but she's completely out of her element here and shows all the acting range of a garden vegetable in this role. Both actors come across as uninteresting and unengaged.
I'd like to say Damon makes up for the lack of good acting elsewhere, but he has so few lines in the film, it's hard to judge. While the movie certainly makes physical demands of him as an actor, it doesn't offer the character of Jason Bourne very much in terms of growth. I dare say Damon has little more than a page's worth of dialogue in the whole film, and it's mostly him trying to find out who was responsible for his father's death – an answer that is pretty easy to figure out, given the movie's premise.
'Jason Bourne' also features a silly subplot about the CIA wanting to use a social network designed by a Silicon Valley billionaire (played by The Night Of's Riz Ahmed) to keep tabs on millions of people worldwide, despite the billionaire's promise that his platform will be totally protective of any user's personal data. The movie is so unsure about how any of this might work, that it only refers to the platform in vague terms and we don't even see a single screenshot of what the website might look like throughout the entire run of the film. Actually, I could probably write a thesis on how misguided and simple-minded this movie's perception of computers and how they work is (and I'm far from computer savvy myself)...almost as if the filmmakers didn't realize technology has changed drastically since the last time they shot a 'Bourne' film.
But enough about 'Jason Bourne's many problems, let's focus on what does work: the action sequences. Director Paul Greengrass has a preference to shoot big sequences with as little CGI and as many practical effects as possible, and that passion is certainly on display here. There's a fun motorcycle chase through the streets of Athens early in the movie that many films would save for their climax. Foot chases and fisticuffs also play throughout the movie. But the most impressive action is saved for last – a big chase scene that takes place on the famed Strip in Las Vegas using real cars, real explosions, and real crashes (including one of the vehicles driving into a real casino – the Riviera, which was closing and scheduled for implosion about six months after these scenes were shot). The Las Vegas action alone may be enough to warrant a purchase of this movie. It's arguably the best action scene in any of the 'Bourne' movies and certainly the best action sequence I've seen in any movie this year.
Without spoiling the details of the ending, it's frustrating to report that this is just another sequel that leaves viewers hanging about the future of its lead character. It's obvious that Greengrass felt that this was perhaps the first movie in a new trilogy of 'Bourne' releases, but after the rather lukewarm reception at the box office, it remains unclear if we'll ever see Damon playing this character again (it still made a nice dime thanks largely to foreign receipts, but adjusted for inflation it's also the least-successful of Damon's 'Bourne' films here in the States). While 'Jason Bourne' is still quite watchable, the fact that it really has nothing new to say about the character and relies so much the previous movies to tell this story is certainly a missed opportunity. If there is a "next time", one can only hope writer Tony Gilroy (or someone of his caliber) is brought back into the mix.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Jason Bourne' arrives back on the grid in this 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray/Digital HD combo pack. The 4K Ultra disc and 50GB Blu-ray arrive housed inside a black Elite keepcase, along with an insert containing a code for either an UltraViolet or iTunes digital copy of the movie. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase slides overtop and, unlike most slipcovers, Universal rounds off the corners of them so they're slightly different from their Blu-ray counterpart. There are no front-loaded advertisements on the 4K disc; however, the Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for 'The Great Wall', The Girl on the Train, Snowden, Anthropoid, Death Race 2050. The 4K disc's main menu is a montage of footage of the film, shown in its 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with menu selections in the top left corner of the frame. The Blu-ray menu is the standard Universal design, with menu options vertically down the left side of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free and, of course, the 4K disc has no region coding.
'Jason Bourne' was shot on a combination of 35mm, 16mm, and digital equipment, including the Aaton Penelope, various Arri Alexa models, and the Red Epic Dragon. Viewers who are prone to headaches from Director Paul Greengrass's obsession with the 'shaky cam' style aren't going to get much relief here, as 'Jason Bourne' is a movie in constant motion – with the image shaking even when it seems to make no logical sense to what's happening on screen. The movie is presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
According to what I was able to uncover online, this Ultra HD transfer of 'Jason Bourne' has been created from a 4K digital intermediate source, meaning it's not an upconvert, and it certainly shows in the finished product. 'Jason Bourne' already looks really good on Blu-ray, but this 4K version adds noticeable detail, depth, inky blacks, and the kind of deep color that can only be found with 4K HDR. The black levels, in particular, are a huge advantage over the Blu-ray version, as much of 'Jason Bourne' takes place in dark, dimly lit, or smoky locations (and the movie overall has that grayish/bluish tint that all the 'Bourne' flicks have had).
Is the 4K version leaps and bounds better than the Blu-ray? Well, not really, but that's more to do with how good the Blu-ray transfer came out than anything faulty about the 4K version. Bottom line is, if you want the best-looking home video version of this movie, go with the 4K release. If you're more of a casual fan who just wants to complete their 'Bourne' collection, you'll be fine with the slightly cheaper 1080p version.
The featured track here is an DTS X track that lives up to what we expect for this audio format, although it's just short of being reference-quality. The movie's opening moments have some aural fun to them as Jason Bourne's memories about his past feature sequences where the audio reverberates through the speakers, both front and back. There are numerous scenes featuring crowds in the movie, so the rears are also used then to provide the listener/viewer with an immersive feeling to the proceedings.
The surrounds are also used quite a bit to enhance the musical soundtrack and, of course, to add to the fun during the movie's many action sequences. If there's one fault I have with the DTS X track, it's that the low-end LFE doesn't seem to have nearly as much "oomph" to it as I would have expected, although it's still noticeable throughout. Dialogue (other than during the flashback sequences) is mostly up-front and cleanly rendered. I detected no apparent glitches or major issues elsewhere.
In addition to the DTS X lossless track, a DTS Headphone X track is also available, as are a Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD track and a French 5.1 DTS track. Subtitles are an option in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray contain the exact same audio/subtitle selections, with the exception of an English DVS (Descriptive Video Service) track, which is only available on the Blu-ray.
Sadly, the return of this popular movie icon is more action than intrigue this time around, as 'Jason Bourne' suffers from an extremely underwritten screenplay. Still, the pacing and extended set pieces keep the energy level pretty high on this fifth 'Bourne' movie (and the fourth with star Matt Damon). This is probably the least of the five films, but it's still got enough going for it to be worth a look.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.