'A Shambling Corpse of Its Former Self': What Critics Are Saying About Jason Bourne

Image via Universal Pictures.
Image via Universal Pictures.

Jason Bourne, the fifth film in the franchise and the fourth starring Matt Damon, hits theaters today. The would-be trilogy wrapped up nicely with 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum but of course Hollywood can’t just let a good thing lie. Now, after a sort-of Jason Bourne movie starring not Jason Bourne, we’re back with a film critics are saying is equally unnecessary.


The reviews are in and they’re not great, with most complaining about Damon’s scant dialogue, a constantly wobbly camera and a haphazard plot. But other than that, it looks great!

If you were already planning on spending your hard-earned $15-$20 on a ticket this weekend, the reviews may do little to persuade you otherwise. However, they’re still enjoyable in their own schadenfreude-esque way. Here are some of the most brutal—but fear not for Matt Damon and company. It looks like Jason Bourne is going to make a boatload of money anyway.

Slash Film

‘Jason Bourne’ Was So Bad, It Made Me Retroactively Reconsider My Love of the Franchise

Not only does it bring nothing new to the table for the franchise, but the film just feels like a shambling corpse of its former self.

New Republic

As usual, the cutting and shaking is so oppressive that you can’t tell what’s going on, but it worked in the first films because they were trying to create a canvas of chaos; here, in a much more standard thriller, they just give you a headache.

The movie has no reason to exist other than to get the franchise back on track, which, considering the heights this franchise once reached, is an incredibly depressing place to find one’s self.

Jason Bourne is a cover performed by the same band that wrote the original but doesn’t like the song anymore. They’ll play it for you. They’ll pretend it’s still like playing it for the first time. But you can see it on their faces: They know better, and so will you.



But here’s the irony: Jason Bourne is at its best when its main character isn’t in it.



Paul Greengrass, who also directed the original Bourne trilogy, is behind the camera again—but can’t seem to hold it steady for a single scene. The director’s penchant for woozy, wobbly “shakycam” shots is meant to convey edge, movement and action, but man, it sure gets old. Even when characters are having a calm conversation, the camera is fidgeting like it can’t wait to split.

“I remember… I remember,” Bourne intones at the beginning of the movie. By the end, the audience may remember, too—that there were other, not-quite-so-downer choices at the multiplex.


Leonard Maltin

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.



But over the course of only six screen-hours they began to feel as repetitive as the 007s (24 canonical installments and counting). So many white, middle-aged character actors — Chris Cooper/Bryan Cox/Joan Allen/David Strathairn/Albert Finney — wearing lanyards and yelling things like “This is CODE SEVEN abort” and “This is a LEVEL FOUR situation” and “We are GOING MOBILE,” invariably just before... getting into a car.



Is the boffo success of thrillers like Jason Bourne proof that our brains have evolved enough to follow multiple data streams at dizzying speeds — and, if so, why did I leave the movie feeling brain-damaged?


The Verge

That aside, though, Bourne is numbing in its relentless, repetitive pursuit sequences, some of which add absolutely nothing to the story except wrecked cars and extra minutes.



Well, Jason Bourne has arrived, like a blaring siren, wooping a warning: they can even fuck these up.


Wall Street Journal

Now he remembers who he is, but this fourth episode of the franchise forgot to make him human.

But if you’re not feeling generous—and I leaned to the Not side after less than an hour—it’s a collection of repetitive tropes that Mr. Rouse’s pumped-up editing has turned into a two-hour version of a 100-yard dash.

You don’t go to a Bourne movie to laugh, of course, but neither do you go to get worn down.


Daily Herald

So, this is how an action movie franchise dies.

To thunderous flaws

Star Tribune

The fifth entry in the series (following Jeremy Renner’s much-scoffed sidebar spinoff “The Bourne Legacy”) is as exciting as a carbon copy produced by a clone.


Charlotte Observer

This stale, redundant story goes round in the same tight circles, revealing one piddling new secret and containing one unconvincing change of character.

Tommy Lee Jones, who plays corrupt CIA director Robert Dewey, expresses only massive indifference. His face, with its large nose and lines as deep as coal seams, now resembles one of those rubber Richard Nixon masks donned by bank robbers in movies. His most famous onscreen line remains his reply to Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive” – “I don’t care!” – and it has apparently become his personal mantra.


SF Gate

But its camera work, possibly intended to distract audiences from the movie’s flaws, only compounds its problems. It distances the audience and makes “Jason Bourne” a chore to sit through.

It’s the opposite of exciting. It’s the visual equivalent of white noise, and if you’re not careful, you might fall asleep.


Roger Ebert.com

Rarely has there been so much intensity in the pursuit of a story that feels like it has no stakes. When “Jason Bourne” is done, ask yourself what everyone was yelling, running and fighting about. Good luck coming up with a satisfying answer.


Washington Post

At times, “Jason Bourne” looks like it was shot by the monkey cam from “Late Night With David Letterman.

The plot of “Jason Bourne” jumps from city to city, and from car chase to shootout, with the pitiless efficiency of the Asset, who leaves in his wake an almost laughably large pile of bodies and upside-down vehicles.



This is usually the part where I give you just a token amount of plot. But, let’s be honest, all I have to say is “Oh, it’s like the second one and the third one,” and you’ll have a pretty good idea.


Village Voice

The movie leaves you feeling both empty and exhausted.

Senior Writer, Jezebel


Doncha Know

Not that I’m surprised that it’s this bad, but I’m bummed. The Bourne Identity was the first action flick I actually enjoyed and felt invested in. Most action movies, my mind wanders and I lose interest during all the gun fights, explosions and car chases and GAWD the set-ups for shitty one-liners they needed for the trailer make me angry. Suddenly, it wasn’t my least-favorite genre anymore and it put me in a place where I was willing to watch Die Hard, which is now another favorite of mine. it’s one of my top 10 favorites of all time.

Normally, I love reading scathing reviews of bad movies, but this is depressing me.