Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the Bourne movies as much as the next girl. Matt Damon is always great, and as far as spy movies/adventure flicks go, The Bourne franchise has it all: artfully choreographed fight scenes, explosive car chases, a seemingly indestructible hero and plenty of shaky cam to leave audiences satisfied, albeit a little dizzy.
This latest instalment, which will probably be the last one featuring Damon (the sequel starring Jeremy Renner is scheduled for sometime around 2018), offers a healthy dose of all those things that make the Bourne franchise great – or at least contains plenty of cliches to appeal to the genre’s fans, depending on how you look at it – but feels, to me, like the worst one of the bunch.
As far the plot goes, it’s really nothing to write home about. Having remembered everything about his past and in hiding since we left off, Jason Bourne resurfaces to seek the truth about his recruitment and his father’s death, and eventually exact revenge on the agency bigshots who manipulated him into becoming the top secret killing machine we’ve come to know and love. As a subplot, we get the ever-popular, in recent years, story about surveillance via social media: the businessman who made a deal with the devil and now regrets it on one hand, the CIA and its effort to keep it under wraps and get its hands on the priceless app on the other.
Definitely belonging to the list of pros, the fight scene between Jason and the ‘Asset’, aka Vincent Cassel. It’s dirty, gritty, bloody and adrenaliine-packed, and definitely makes up for the lackluster fight scenes in the first half of the movie. I don’t know if it’s the hallmark of a good actor or just the plain fact that it’s very easy to hate Cassel’s ugly mug, but I loved him as the bad guy. (Tommy Lee Jones, on the other hand… I’m tired of seeing him typecast as the bad guy chasing fugitives for the past 20-odd years).
No less of a jolt of adrenaline, but somewhat lacking due to its over-the-top factor, was the car chase scene in Las Vegas. Apparently going the wrong way at high speed in police cars and SWAT vans isn’t enough these days, so they had to enhance the mega pile-up by making the cars jump and fly on impact. Believable? Not really, but it makes for spectacular movie-making, so what the hell.
On to the nit-picking:
Okay, first of all, Julia Stiles. It seems the Bourne movies is the only work she’s been doing for the past 15 years (or at least the only thing I’ve seen her in), and the poor girl [spoiler alert] gets killed within the first 20′ or so. Which is just as well, to be honest, because she delivers her lines as if she’s reading them off a teleprompter. Maybe that’s why we don’t see her in movies very often?
Secondly, the other female character, Heather Lee: Alicia Vikander is beautiful and definitely has the acting chops for the job, but on what planet does the head of cyber ops of the CIA go to work, travel by plane and appear on much-hyped televised panels in Vegas wearing a freaking claw hair clip? You know, the kind of thing you’d throw on a messy bun and call it a day when you’re lounging about the house pigging out on salty snacks and watching, oh, I don’t know, blockbuster movies?
On to the plot points that really struck a chord:
You know how the first part of the film takes place in Athens? Well, all the red tape and insane taxes made it impossible for the producers to actually film the movie in Greece.
This is definitely not the most catastrophic accomplishment of our worthless government, but it’s probably the most frustrating; yes, greek legislation is a maze to navigate, and all the government has done in recent years is raise taxes to bleed us dry, but you’d think that they’d find a way around all that in order to bring in some revenue by way of tourism and/or job creation. Not that showing Athens practically under siege would do much for promoting the city, granted, but it just goes to show how utterly incapable this country is of taking advantage of its assets.
A bit of a sidenote here (and some shameless self country promotion added in): you know that imposing view Tyrion had when he was captured at the Eyrie and held in the sky cells?
Those massive boulders aren’t in Ireland, Croatia, Spain or wherever else GoT shoots on location. They’re the Meteora mountains in nothern Greece, and those structures impossibly built atop the gigantic rocks – much like the Eyrie is supposed to, in fact – are monasteries.
Did GoT shoot in Meteora? No more than Jason Bourne did. They digitally superimposed the impressive background and called it a day. As for the Bourne movie? Well, Tenerife doubled for Athens and quite believably, too.
Having had the dubious pleasure of working smack-dab in the middle of Syntagma square for years and made witness to a few of the city’s worst riots in recent history, I can safely say that the faux-Syntagma square and its surroundings looked close enough to the real thing, even if the degree of destruction was largely exaggerated – not to mention that Athens isn’t nearly as run-down as the director would have you believe. And no, not even secret agents could walk around town during a violent demonstration as if they’re strolling in the park, especially when the police mostly use tear gas instead of the tamer high-pressure water-hoses to disperse the crowds, but there’s suspension of disbelief for you.
What was completely and utterly unbelievable, however, as any Athenian will tell you, is the ridiculous car chase that ensued. As any Athenian will tell you, gridlock is a frequent occurence even on normal days, let alone when if half the city is burning up. A high-speed car chase on the streets of Athens with normal traffic and parked cars is damn near impossible; a car chase when the city is rioting is pretty damn laughable.
And yes, I realize that complaining about the artistic license the movie took with the Athens scenes, when everything that happens in the Bourne franchise is rarely grounded on reality, is moot, but it’s not everyday I see my city in a blockbuster movie, and it just saddens me to see that, out of every beautiful place they could show, it’s worst part of this country’s reality that’s being portrayed here.
Also sad, but for different reasons: the fact they took care to show crowds chanting in greek and properly spelled graffiti on the walls (although the word choice of both chants and graffiti was quite baffling), but couldn’t figure out – or were too lazy to research – the proper spelling for the subway station signs, or the fact that the statue of Athena isn’t exactly walking distance from Syntagma. Pireaus, the largest port of the city, was butchered in greek (Πιρεασ instead of the correct Πειραιάς). There are plenty of statues in the surrounding area, but their chosen rendezvous point is well across the city center and away from all the demonstration havoc.
I know, I know. It makes little difference for anyone except the pedantic few among the 11 million Greeks who might watch the movie, but the devil’s in the details, isn’t it?
All in all, it was an enjoyable summer movie, even if it didn’t live up to the Bourne franchise hype.