First Hit: Unnecessary shaky camera work got in the way of a sub-standard story about Jason Bourne.
I don’t mind shaky camera work when it adds to the excitement of a scene in a film. In some films it works really well (think “Breaking the Waves”). It can also be helpful when the audience is following someone who is running and other scenes like this. The technique becomes a mindless technique and distraction when unnecessarily used to create excitement.
The story needs to be exciting first and foremost. Paul Greengrass used a ton of unnecessary shaky camera work in this film. Examples abound, like when a sniper is setting up to shoot, the camera needed to be as still and calm as the in-breath and out-breath of a sniper making a clean shot. Internal and external landscape shots of an area so that the audience knows the the lay of the land instead of haphazard shots creating confusion for the audience.
When I have the thought "why can’t the camera stop shaking", it is a distraction. The director doesn't want the audience thinking about why they cannot tell what is happening on the screen.
Greengrass may have used this technique because the story is less intriguing than the previous Bourne films (The Bourne Identity – 2002, The Bourne Supremacy – 2004, The Bourne Ultimatum – 2007, and The Bourne Legacy – 2012). The first three captured my attention mostly because the story was great, had passion, intrigue, and suspense. In the 2012 version, Matt Damon wasn’t playing Jason Bourne directly and therefore the film lacked the amazingness he brings to this franchise.
This version had Matt Damon back as Jason Bourne seeking to piece together his father’s death and involvement in Blackbriar while attempting to settle his own personal struggles of identity.
As an overall storyline it wasn’t the best, yet it did have a side story about today’s issue of using technology to track people and their actions. Here, the company creating software that can do this is lead by Aaron Kallor (Riz Ahmed). But the story and film are about Bourne and Damon is such a strong actor that he brings this character to life like no one else can. He makes Bourne complex, charming, physically capable, and chivalrous, or as much as a undercover CIA agent can be chivalrous.
The villain is still the agency as they believe he knows too much and will continue to expose their illegal covert programs. It was wonderful to see Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), his previous supporting agency agent, helping Jason to get additional information helping him to piece together the puzzle.
The film showing the kind of technology available to the CIA was very good and interesting. The new CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), as always, wants Jason eliminated. He uses an Asset (Vincent Cassel) to do the dirty work and like, Bourne he’s relentless.
Another bright spot was CIA Agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who takes on the previous Pam Landy (Joan Allen) spot as head of the task force to bring Bourne in (or take him out). Lee, like Landy, connects with Bourne as a person and shows a level of compassion for his plight. One last note, I thought the car chase through downtown Las Vegas overdone and unnecessarily unrealistic.
Damon is Jason Bourne. In my eyes he’s the only guy who can pull off the character Jason Bourne because he created him. As usual, I loved his performance. Jones was OK as the crusty, old school, CIA Director but felt he was too crusty to run an agency that is filled with new progressive technology. Vikander was perfect for the part. Her strong, aggressive, and young female portrayal of a top CIA Agent in this world of progressive electronics was perfect. She was the opposite of Jones. Stiles was great to see again and her role really helped tie together Bourne and the new players in the agency. Cassel was perfect as the Asset. He does focused single minded action as good as anyone. Ahmed does a good job as being a software vendor who got into bed with the CIA and now wants out. Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse wrote a barely adequate script, but it was Greengrass’s direction that lowed the Bourne bar.
Overall: Although shaky, it is watchable because Damon makes it work.