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BOURNE. JASON BOURNE. AGAIN.

You know his name. You know his moves. You even know he can ride a motorcycle up and down ancient city steps, because we’ve seen him do it before. It’s not just a sense of déjà vu that makes the newest Bourne movie a yawn, but it doesn’t help.

Director Paul Greengrass’ return to the series is another problem, at least for me. Greengrass is a highly talented filmmaker, but in his previous Bourne movies he sought new ways to heighten the excitement of his action scenes to a point of kinetic absurdity. Now, as in his last effort (2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum) he adopts what I call a “chaos-cam” approach. You don’t actually see anything happen: every blow, every crash, every bullet hit is inferred in the midst of frenzied editing. This kind of muddle isn’t exhilarating in my book.

What’s worse, Greengrass seems to believe that the only way to frame an actor’s face is in macro-closeup form, so that we can count their pores. A woman as young and beautiful as Alicia Vikander is about the only one who can withstand such scrutiny here. I am now keenly aware of the pimples on Matt Damon’s face; to say that Tommy Lee Jones is shown in an unflattering light is perhaps the understatement of the year.

Tommy Lee Jones-Alicia vikander-1

(Photo by Jasin Boland – Courtesy of Universal Studios)

As to the script, which Greengrass wrote with film editor Christopher Rouse, it shows its hand far too early.  CIA director Jones is determined to shut down Jason Bourne, who is becoming far too curious about his murky past. Agency up-and-comer Vikander takes charge of the operation, but has more empathy for Bourne than the director thinks necessary.

There you have it: a clothesline on which to hang spectacular but uninvolving action sequences, a plot that becomes transparent long before it should, and good actors doing their best to lend credibility to the proceedings. All of this caused my mind to start wandering, which is not the goal of a major Hollywood summer release.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

6 comments

  1. Dick May says:

    Leonard, Thanks for the description of the frenetic camera and editing work. That makes this picture a complete turn-off for me, and others I know who can’t sit thru this stuff.
    Turan in today’s LA Times makes no mention (warning) of this.

  2. mike schlesinger says:

    God, I really, really hate chaos filmmaking, and Greengrass is arguably the worst offender. He even used it on CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, where it was totally out of sync with the story. Stop moving the damn camera! We want to see the actors, not you!

  3. Jeffrey says:

    If this film really does waste an acting roster of this caliber, then there will be no mercy.

  4. this bourne movie is not better than the trilogy before but still the better spy movie than 300 milions dollar spy movie

  5. Mark Marshall says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for calling out the seizure cam nonsense. I’m sick of this crap. Someday in the distant future film historians will look back at movies made in this period of time and marvel at all of the missed opportunities destroyed by a chaotic shit show of horrible camera work and editing. No one should ever pay Greengrass to make another movie until he swears off this fetish forever. He’s not the only one in Hollywood that’s hooked on giving us images we can’t see, either. What happened Hollywood? In the 50s we had one-eyed directors making 3D movies that still look awesome today. And today our film makers have unlimited CGI power at their disposal to create life-like imagery of anything they want but instead some of them choose to give us blurry images we can’t make out at all. There was a time when scenes like that would have been considered a mistake and would have been re-shot. This idiocy is a cancer on film making and it needs to stop.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    One follow-up note. When I did see this film with a friend, it ended up giving him motion sickness.

    Is a good film supposed to do that?

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