‘Jason Bourne’ DVD Review (The Hollywood News)

jb-1The last entry in the Bourne franchise was 2012’s The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner. While that became a one-off, it’s worth examining the character’s true legacy before diving in with this review. The original trilogy helped cement Matt Damon‘s position in Hollywood. Paul Greengrass‘s involvement from part two onwards gave the series an additional layer of quality. More than anything, the films had an impact on movie action in general. When Daniel Craig took the role of 007, it was no coincidence his adventures were “back to basics” in nature, a single shot saying more than a million bullets out of a machine gun ever could.

Identity through to Supremacy appeared to offer a complete journey for Jason Bourne. Despite this, Damon and Greengrass have got the band back together for their riskiest mission yet: an extra helping that tries not to tarnish what has gone before. Have they succeeded? Well, on the whole yes, though there are a few bumps on the road as they go.

Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse have developed their hero’s personal odyssey further by revealing hitherto-unknown information about Bourne’s involvement in Operation Blackbriar (the covert assassination league he blew wide open during his last outing). When former ally-turned-Snowden-esque-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) contacts a broken-down Bourne about this explosive development, the scene is set for him to return from his exile as a bare knuckle boxer and set the world to rights one more time. It’s a logical but well-worn approach, though in fairness the strength of the franchise was the way it put a new spin on hackneyed spy thriller clichés rather than innovate itself.

Drawn back into the fray like a chiselled moth to a flame, Damon’s Bourne runs up against an impressive trio of villains. Tommy Lee Jones‘s weathered CIA chief Robert Dewey wants the rogue operative permanently erased. Alicia Vikander‘s ambitious and fetching Heather Lee represents the changing face of intelligence, believing Bourne can be brought back into the fold. Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s “The Asset” becomes the latest relentless Euro-henchman to be put on Damon’s tail, a man of steel with old scores to settle.

Inevitably it’s more of the same controlled chaos, with Greengrass’s handheld camera roving amongst the fist fights and destruction at breakneck speed. The unflinching pace doesn’t make up for repetition and an overall lack of meat. However some intriguing snippets of Bourne’s character are in evidence – most notably the way he distances himself from Nicky’s counter culture activities. He may be fighting the system, but at heart he’s an establishment man, a strand which gives credence to Vikander’s belief he secretly wants to return to duty.

She is the film’s strongest element, Lee possessing equal capacity to wear either the white hat or the black. Damon can do this sort of thing in his sleep and the same can be said of Jones, who is a welcome presence. Cassel’s ageing hard man is also highly watchable. Like a lot of these big action projects, it could have done with being a bit shorter and not all the fresh ingredients work. Riz Ahmed‘s social media mogul doesn’t add much to the narrative, aside from making the basic point that Dewey’s world is changing.

Ironically the climactic chase has all the extravagance of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, a sign that maybe the series is running low on inspiration. The team have had a good run, and made a sizeable mark on the genre – as Moby’s excellent Extreme Ways kicks in over the end credits, it might be time to admit those ways are now the old ways.

 

This review first appeared on THN.

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“There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit…” Interview with ‘Jason Bourne’ writer Christopher Rouse (The Hollywood News)

jb-3As Matt Damon brings the high octane adventures of Jason Bourne into your home this week, now is a good time to interview the man who puts those heart-stopping action sequences together: editor and co-writer Christopher Rouse.

Rouse occupies an intriguing position in the Bourne firmament. Having began his association in the cutting room, he now takes on script and production duties alongside director Paul Greengrass. This strong partnership crafts the franchise behind the scenes, while Greengrass and Damon cause a storm front of camera. As the torch bearers for Robert Ludlum’s character, our first question naturally concerned the immense task they faced…

jb-crTHN: Did you and Paul Greengrass experience any trepidation in continuing Bourne’s story?

Christopher Rouse: Well I think we both have incredible respect and admiration for the franchise. We didn’t want to embark on a process or a script idea unless we believed there was a real story to tell, that would do justice to the franchise and his character. So we were cautious all the way through it certainly.

Tell me about how a Bourne action sequence evolves, from the original idea to the page and then on to the shoot…

Like any sequence, action has to be rooted in story and character. It has to have stakes and clear goals and obstacles for the people involved. Once that’s defined it’s a matter of calibrating that, in terms of what might be visually interesting and exciting. Once we get something on page then Paul will take it and work with his second unit director and a very talented stunt team. Then the piece will evolve even further. Where it’s shot, that’ll give rise to other ideas… the location may dictate certain restrictions to what we’ve originally imagined. I’ll receive it in the cutting room, it’ll continue to evolve and I’ll shape it as I see fit through the post-production process. It’s like any other scene, or aspect of the story. There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit. The piece is always imbued with new ideas and different types of energy.

jb-1Paul Greengrass is known for having multiple camera set-ups, so you’ve got lots of footage to play with in the editing suite. Would you say your films with him are primarily made in the edit?     

I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization. They certainly take shape there in many ways but Paul is a visionary filmmaker and I think the film is in his head very early on.

It strikes me as a complicated way of working, to shoot so much to begin with!

It is a lot of work and at the end of the day I’m trying to put together a film that makes sense to me, and that is in concert with Paul’s vision. Having done six films now with him, one of the great things is that we know each other well, we share a common world view. We’re interested by the same types of things. We have the same artistic sensibilities. It’s very easy for us to lock in together, I’m highly attuned to what he believes the piece is as it evolves. Even though I get a tremendous amount of footage, if I’ve done my job and I’m anchored in story and character when I start putting things together, it’s actually most times a straightforward proposition. I’m not saying there isn’t any heavy lifting because there is. It’s shaped in the cutting room but not made there, which is an important distinction.

jb-2The film is also another reunion between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. What is it about that relationship that you think works so well?  

There’s deep affection between the two of them and they’re exceedingly hard workers. You wind up with a special relationship. And then there are loads of tangibles, having two types of superb artists married together, there’s that symbiotic connection that occurs where you get a lot of magic, spontaneously and unexpectedly. It doesn’t happen often.

You started off as an editor and now you’re co-writing and producing. Do you fancy directing at some stage?

I’ve been approached to direct several times, in fact I’ve written for many years myself. My father (Russell Rouse) was a screenwriter and I’ve written short stories, poetry and screenplays on my own. I’d consider directing. One of the things I really enjoy with Paul is the tremendous amount of creative freedom. It allows me to express myself in ways I wouldn’t in a normal editing situation. This is a long way of saying yes, I would consider being a director if it were the right project, not doing it for the sake of directing. I want to direct something that matters to me.

One of your first big editing jobs was working on Desperate Hours with Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), who sadly passed away this year. That must have been a hell of a formative experience…

Also I worked with Hal Ashby (Harold & Maude) for three years, a superb editor and director. I learnt a tremendous amount from Hal at a very young age. Michael gave me plenty of opportunities to express myself creatively and I’m very appreciative for that. He was a complicated man, he could be very generous and very difficult at the same time. I’m very grateful for what I learned from him and what he gave me.

What’s coming next down the line?

Paul and I are actually writing together right now, it’s an original idea we’re playing around with. When I hang up with you I’m going to call him up and talk about the day’s work.

Can you tell me anything about it?

I can’t at this point, I’m sworn to secrecy! But I think the piece has a lot of potential and Paul is very excited about it. We’ll see if we get anywhere…

 

This interview first appeared on THN.