Jason Bourne Again


Jason Bourne still doesn’t know who he is, but he knows more about himself than he did at the conclusion of the last film.  Unfortunately, the fifth film didn’t quite live up to the first three.  I don’t include the fourth film because Damon wasn’t in it and I didn’t see it.

As you probably know, Damon plays Jason Bourne, AKA David Webb, who was a CIA operative gone rogue after failing to successfully carry out an earlier mission.  In the last film, Pamela Landy, a covert operations specialist tasked with capturing Bourne ended up exposing corrupt agency leadership and operations that had seriously gone afoul of the law.  In Jason Bourne, the new film, Heather Lee, played by Alicia Vikander, assumes the role of bringing in Bourne after a CIA computer hack exposes his whereabouts. The hack introduces an old character, former CIA agent Nicki Parsons, who had gone rogue to help Bourne elude captors in a previous film.  In her reprised role as a hacker, she wants to obtain and leak the special operations files that include a new endeavor even more disturbing than Treadstone.  However, the leak is thwarted and the rest of the movie plot focuses on the pursuit of Bourne.

One of the problems with the film was Vikander in the role of Heather Lee.  She came off as being an ambitious Millenial without any clear ethical standards.  She may have turned on the CIA, but it appeared she played her cards close to the vest.  It is not obvious whether she was trying to help Bourne or simply further her own career, though she did do him a solid (saved his life) by taking out the assassination happy CIA Director played by the elder Tommy Lee Jones.  While this would appear to be evidence that she was on Bourne’s side, in the end, she told another operative that she would bring Bourne in our have him taken down, which Bourne had cleverly recorded and used as justification for not turning himself in and working with the CIA, that Heather Lee had claimed was now free of all the corrupt agents and assets.  I’m not saying Vikander isn’t a good actress, but I am saying that I did not like the ambivalence of her character.  It was as if she too were a rogue agent who like Bourne had lost her memory.  The expression on her face throughout was one of stoicism and regret.

Like Heather Lee, Jason Bourne is as stoic as ever owing to his amnesia but continues to piece together more about his life as he obtains information little by little.  And while it might be easy to sympathize with the Jason Bourne character, one cannot overlook the fact that he is a trained assassin and has killed countless people, most in self-defense, and seems to have no regrets.  He also doesn’t seem to care about the ethics or lack of them of the various covert operations of which he had been associated and the evil ones that he now knows are in the works.  His modus operandi is self-preservation, not freedom, ethics, or patriotism.  And as such, it seems that Heather Lee and Jason Bourne are cut from the same cloth and are equally sketchy but more likable the rest of the CIA characters in the film.

Every Bourne flick has a memorable car chase and this latest film was no exception except that the action was not nearly as dramatic or suspenseful as the first three films.  Ok, the armored car driven by a rogue asset rolling over and smashing into cars was cool, but the black Dodge Challenger that Bourne appropriates can barely be seen in the night shots.  And besides, I’d rather have seen him in another Mini or a Smart Car or a Las Vegas police cruiser.  The chase scenes are more like futuristic computer animations with quick scene shifts and odd camera angles that obscure the clarity of the action.  Also, the action takes place in several cities – London, Athens, DC, Berlin, Las Vegas and Reykjavik, but I did not feel the sense of place as in previous films.  There are several shots of buildings and streets that only gave me the vague impression of place.  The filmmakers did the best job with Las Vegas, showing the skyline, and taking the moviegoer along on the car chase scenes through the strip.

The film was just ok.  It is not going to win any awards or get the ravest of reviews, but it is worth going to see on the big screen.  And yes, the film ends where a 6th version could easily and logically begin.  Jason Bourne lives to be bourne again.

Salt Review

My wife and I saw SALT last night, but it wasn’t the movie I wanted to see.  I had hoped to convince her that Inception was the better flick.  I didn’t really know if that was true.  She countered that she had heard just the opposite.  The truth is she had heard from one friend and I had heard from nobody.  I had only seen the trailers and Inception just seemed more interesting.  I don’t like action thrillers all that much.  Ok, I take that back.  I like James Bond films and the Bourne trilogy of movies.   And I’d add Salt to this short list.  Heck, I’d add salt to just about anything – buttered popcorn (always more salt than I need), individual pieces of meat, tomatoes and watermelon, – try it, it’s incredible.

If you haven’t seen Salt or the trailers for it, you probably aren’t reading this review. But in case you don’t know, Salt is a CIA agent played by Angelina Jolie.  Like Jason Bourne, the character in the Bourne trilogy played by Matt Damon, Salt is a highly trained agent with supreme fighting skills.  Salt and Bourne would be one invincible team.

And  Jason Bourne and Evelyn Salt have more in common than a common employer.  They both have a German love interest.  Salt’s husband is a German arachnologist; Bourne’s love interest is Franka Potente who plays a German drifter of sorts.  Both characters play rogue agents turned hero, who show extreme loyalty to their mates.  Both speak Russian fluently.  And the two are master escape artists who have the uncanny ability to cause police car accidents and escape unscathed.

The Salt plot has many twists and turns.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on until the very end, and then needed a few minutes after the movie to process and sort out what I had seen.   The Bourne plots are more straight forward.  It’s clear who the bad guys are.  In Salt, sorting out evil from good is a complicated exercise.  The characters of Salt and Bourne are trained killers and they do quite a bit of killing on screen, and not all of it in self-defense. They are both on a violent mission to bring inner peace and domestic tranquility.  Bourne wants his identity back and Salt longs for her quiet married life.  Both had gotten in over their heads and seek redemption but want revenge first.

In Salt, the Russians are portrayed as evil as if it were filmed during the cold war.  I thought we were past the stereotypes of a Russia bent on world domination. In the Bourne films, several rogue agents in the CIA took on the villain role. Whereas, in Salt, the CIA came off not as evil, but incompetent.

I enjoyed the movie.  I know it was good because I paused a few times while eating my heavily salted and lightly buttered tub of popcorn.  Usually, I polish off the tub in seconds flat well before the movie ends.  With Salt, I never made it to the bottom of the tub.

Salt.  Good on popcorn, watermelon and on a lazy summer night in front of the big screen.  Go taste if for yourself at a cinema near you.