Jason Bourne should have stayed home (review)

bourne poster

Super-assassin Jason Bourne is trying to figure out who he really is. In doing so, he falls into a web of deceit and potentially world-crippling black ops, including the one that gave birth to him. People try to neutralize him…silly people.

Cars race through crowded streets. Shots are fired from every direction. People die just as they start to provide answers. More shots are fired. Bourne gets answers but no real resolution or peace.

If you expected any more from a Jason Bourne movie, then you will be seriously disappointed with the latest installment of the series based the lead character of the novels by Robert Ludlum. In fact, if you want more from a Jason Bourne story, read the novels by Robert Ludlum because they are insanely better than any of the movies.

[Some SPOILERS hereafter]

In the latest installment of the series, Matt Damon’s titular character is brought out of hiding by his former nemesis-turned-ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who has hacked into the CIA server and stolen the complete dossiers of the agency’s Black Ops. She wants to turn the information over to a Julian Assange kind of character, but asks for Bourne’s help, enticing him with information about his father’s involvement in his creation as super-killer (think X-Files Fox Mulder).

After a momentary “I’m getting too old for this shit” and some personal sacrifice on the end of a bullet, Bourne is alone again and we are off to the races.

Bourne cast

The CIA Director (Tommy Lee Jones) wants him dead, relying on another super-assassin The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to get the job done, while IT-savvy CIA analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) sees an opportunity to advance her career and maybe replace her boss by bringing Bourne in. Oh, and in the background, there is something about the CIA having access to the personal information of everyone on the planet via the Internet and a Sergey Brin-like character.

Unless this is your first Jason Bourne movie, you know how this all plays out…and if it is your first Jason Bourne film, why should I spoil it for you?

If you are looking for 123 minutes in which to simply check your brain at the door, then this is an entertaining way to do that. Stuff blows up, people fight, lots of car chases. But nothing really happens that hasn’t happened in the previous movies. Much like a roller coaster, the ride can be exhilarating at moments, but once the ride stops, so does the exhilaration.

And that was my problem with the movie…the thrill is quite literally gone for me. Jason Bourne has become his own cliché, and the writers and directors of this series are simply repeating moments from the other incarnations.

Where they had an opportunity to do something truly interesting with this story—the moments we spend exploring Bourne’s relationship with and confusion about his father—the writer-director Paul Greengrass and writer Christopher Rouse give us the barest taste and scurry back to blowing shit up. Rather than offer any sense of discovery and revelation, they simply have a former agency hack fill in the background under threat of death.

Is toady ex machina a thing?

In the earlier incarnations of this series, I never knew what to expect. In this incarnation, I knew exactly what to expect and it was delivered each and every time with a pretty pink ribbon. Or was that faded red tape?

I’m going back to the books. At least Robert Ludlum knew how to write.

As for shit blowing up, back-stabbing political conspiracy, and disquieting Internet voyeurism, 123 minutes of Jason Bourne just can’t compete with 20 minutes of CNN.

Bourne books

The subway ride

I don’t actually know what the following is, other than: the beginning.

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The subway was crowded that morning. It was always crowded when it rained.

It was like no matter how far people had to travel, they were terrified of getting wet. It’s probably closer to the truth to say that most of them had lost several umbrellas in the windy corridors created by the city’s office towers. And yet, to a person, every man and woman carried a neatly folded umbrella, their multiple layers showing nary a single bead of dampness.

By the second station on my route to work, I had lapsed into my typical fog of who cares. At this stage in my life, work was just something I had to do to make money. I had long ago given up on any hope of finding fulfillment or happiness on the job, if only because the company had a strict no-dating policy. Without interoffice sex, my desk was just another place to sort papers.

It didn’t take long before the fog in my head was matched by a fog on the windows of the subway car. The body heat of the mingled strangers turned damp coats and hats into instant humidifiers, rain water mingling with sweat and post-shower damp to coat the walls and windows of the subway with rivulets of diluted deodorant, cologne and perfume. All we needed were a few handprints on the window and the subway car would have looked like the back seat of a sedan parked at a drive-in where the kids inside were doing everything but watching the movie.

I had managed to grab a seat that morning, an unexpected bonus for getting up a little earlier. Even living at the end of the line was no guarantee of finding any comfort in local transit. Too often, I spent my time staring down the tops of flat-chested teens too self-absorbed to give up a seat or leather-skinned grandmothers so desiccated they made your tear ducts hurt. That morning, however, I had managed a forward-facing seat. So people could look down my top and I got to stare right into their crotches.

It was a rough ride into town that morning. The constant start and stop of the train as it waited for the guy up ahead to get his shit together, and the tropical humidity that was slowly growing in my shorts made the decorated plywood seat under my ass that much more uncomfortable. Within 20 minutes, I found myself chafing like a newborn in a day-old diaper.

Tugging at my trouser legs to try and unbunch the material from my crotch, I felt something soft and dry against the back of my left hand. Looking over, I realized it was a leg.

A gorgeous leg. A leg that begged to be touched, but could just as easily crush your balls with the slightest twitch. A leg that worked out regularly, but had never seen a gym in its life. And standing right next to it was another leg, which also shimmered in the grey opalescence of flawless stockings.

Recognizing my transgression and not wanting to be rude, I moved up from the legs. Past the immaculate tweed skirt, the crisp peach blouse, the mottled brown scarf and up to the reddest smile I have ever seen in my life.

This red, I was certain, existed nowhere else in the world. This was a red created for one woman and set aside, the formula for this colour being instantly destroyed as it would appear flawed on anyone else.

I smiled at that red, those lips, and nodded slightly. It was an apology for the unintended intimacy. Words seemed out of place for some reason. The slight rise of her right cheek told me I had been forgiven.

Summoning everything I had in me, I tore my eyes away from that mouth and back to the zoo I called my ride into work.

The fog had definitely lifted from my morning, but it had been replaced with an equally numbing intoxication that I couldn’t handle. Although numbing probably wasn’t the right word, because there was damned little I wasn’t feeling at this moment.

I don’t know if it was 10 seconds or 10 minutes later when the subway jostled around a bend, but what I do know is that the leg found my hand this time. And as the curve of the tracks lingered, so too did the leg, sliding its silken fibers up and down the back of my hand until it began to pull the hairs out one by one.

As the train pulled back onto a straighter course, however, the leg stayed exactly where it had landed, determined to either erase every hair off the back of my hand or gain my attention. It was about to complete the first, but it was mission accomplished on the second.

(Image is property of owner and is used here without permission but a lot of inner dialogue.)