Jason Bourne
Universal // PG-13 // $34.9 // December 6, 2016
Review by William Harrison | posted December 7, 2016
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Graphical Version

THE FILM:

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Several years ago, there was certainly demand for Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to reteam and shoot another Bourne movie, but that tempered somewhat after the solid, somewhat standalone film The Bourne Legacy took the series in an interesting new direction. As you no doubt recall, Damon plays the oft-tormented CIA operative Jason Bourne, who, after nearly 15 years, is still trying to remember exactly what happened to him in the field. After exposing the CIA's black ops programs, Bourne ventured off the grid, during which time the CIA began eliminating incriminating assets across the globe. Pulled back into society by an old ally, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), Bourne realizes the CIA still is willing to go to great lengths to obtain information and control civilians.

I could probably sum up my thoughts on Jason Bourne in one sentence: Competently shot and well acted, Jason Bourne offers series fans more of the same but little to make it memorable. Still, I will elaborate in the spirit of justice. This movie feels like you've seen it several times before. And you have, in the previous Bourne films. At this point, there is obvious narrative fatigue in this ever-retroactively-expanding storyline. It simply does not feel fresh any longer. To make matters worse, the side story here, involving a social media magnate (Riz Ahmed, from HBO's The Night Of) and his progressive views on corporate responsibility, feels shoehorned in and totally preposterous in its ties to the CIA agent drama.

Damon can't help but look a bit tired of the action, too. After all, he's been fighting these same government-backed demons since 2002. The best part of this story involves the morally dubious CIA director, Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), and the hotshot head of the cyber ops division, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). She wants to move up in espionage quickly, but realizes her boss's tactics are indelicate and possibly unethical. Vikander brings the same haunting beauty and fierce resolve she displayed in Ex Machina, and is by far the most compelling and memorable part of this film. Like Parsons, Lee eventually gets her hands dirty the field, and Bourne proves a vexing presence when they meet face to face.

I think the main problem here is that Jason Bourne asks viewers to invest in a story they had been told was concluded, several times over. Greengrass proves a master of frenetic action, and has tempered his trademark "shaky cam" shooting style somewhat. French actor Vincent Cassel returns as an operative bent on ending Bourne, and a weary Stiles proves a welcome callback to better days. Nothing is remotely bad about Jason Bourne, but it never demands your allegiance. Movies need a reason to exist, and the best reason this one gives is "because it can." This is decidedly a step down from the Jeremy Renner-led Legacy, and Jason Bourne certainly does not hit the highs of previous films in the series.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image looks fantastic, of course, as you'd expect from a new Universal release. The film uses several different film stocks, but the entire presentation is sharp, detailed and crystal clear. The fast-motion action sequences impress and are without significant blur or smudging. Skin tones are natural, black levels are largely impressive, and fine-object detail is excellent. I noticed no major issues with aliasing or black crush. Grain is dense at times, but it unspools appropriately.

SOUND:

Motherf***in' BOOM BOOM this DTS-X mix, which I sampled as a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, is aggressive. You, too, can rock the suburbs with nonstop surround action, expert effects layering and a rollicking score. This mix is loud, but it never crests into distortion or a mess of noise. Dialogue is crystal clear and appropriately layered with effects and score, and the subwoofer and surrounds work hard throughout. An English DTS-X headphone mix is included, as are a Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix and a 5.1 DTS French dub. English SDH, French and Spanish subs are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc set, with a Blu-ray and DVD copy, is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. An insert offers a code to redeem for both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. Extras are straightforward: Bringing Back Bourne (8:15/HD) offers an overview of the character and the demand to bring back Damon to the franchise. Bourne to Fight is a three-part featurette on the action sequences: Parts include Bare-Knuckle Boxing (7:55/HD), Close Quarters (4:27/HD) and Underground Rumble (5:59/HD). You also get The Athens Escape (5:37/HD) and another multi-part featurette, Las Vegas Showdown, which includes Convention Chaos (6:36/HD) and Shutting Down the Strip (8:24/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I really wanted Matt Damon's return to the Bourne franchise to be spectacular. Instead, Jason Bourne is simply acceptable: a completely constructed, overly familiar return to a tired narrative. Universal's Blu-ray is technically excellent and offers a couple of bonus features. Rent It.


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