I believe in real-life foreshadowing. And so it went at the pre-release screening of Jason Bourne that I attended: five minutes before the start of the film, one of the event organizers took the stage and told us if we posted about our experience on “Social Media” (referring to “Social Media” only, and not Facebook, Twitter, etc., as if Social Media itself were a single, specific thing) we could win… a Jason Bourne t-shirt, a Jason Bourne hat, and a Jason Bourne pen. I kept waiting for her to say, “… signed by Matt Damon,” but alas, it was not to be. She was even wearing the specific, single shirt that would later be gifted to one of us lucky theatergoers. It was just a rag-tag collection of unremarkable, yet not technically useless, junk. I would, for example, probably use the Jason Bourne pen sometime in the future, were I so lucky to win. But it would cause not so much as a blip on the radar of my life if I didn’t. And I didn’t. And I’m perfectly okay. I also watched Jason Bourne that night. That also left me okay. The film opens with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) earning a living engaging in international street fights. He’s very unhappy, we can tell, by the way he frowns and broods as he laces up his makeshift gloves and then, after a single punch, levels his opponent and stalks away. Matt Damon, by the way, is one lucky bastard. He undoubtedly collected god-knows-how-much-money for this film, and in a two-hour movie, which roughly equates to 120 pages of typed script, he has no more than two pages of dialogue from opening title crawl to ending credits, and probably spent most of his time watching a stunt double fall off buildings. Nice living. We soon learn that Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), Bourne’s one-time associate, has joined a Wikileaks-style information dump operation, and has learned some disturbing facts about Bourne’s past that she feels he should know. The two meet up at one of his street fights, and from there, the shaky-cam action goes from 0 to 11, and doesn’t let up for the rest of the film, as Bourne attempts to figure out his own father’s connection to the program that turned him into a killer, evades both a highly trained assassin put on his trail and some shady government operatives, and attempts to stop a Las Vegas-set assassination attempt on a millionaire tech mogul. If the setup sounds kind of haphazard and generic, well, it is. But really, it doesn’t matter to the overall plot. Not to say that it shouldn’t matter, but, simply, that it doesn’t. Because everything that comes after Bourne and Nicky’s first meet up is a transparent and unapologetic excuse for things to go fast, fall hard, and get blown up. Which itself wouldn’t be so terrible, if not for how nausea inducing and incomprehensible the camera work makes most of the set pieces. Even during a simple train ride, on a presumably flat and even track, the camera jerks back and forth like an intern ran into it on his way to deliver coffee. And during the climactic Vegas-set car chase scene, it’s literally impossible to tell who’s chasing whom, and if it was the car that jumped the ledge and landed on the SWAT truck or vice versa. Outside of those specific sequences, throughout the movie guns are shot and punches are thrown, with the viewer only knowing that Bourne himself isn’t the one who just got killed only because it’s his name in the title and the movie isn’t over yet. And there are several times throughout the movie when important, plot-advancing information is exchanged character-to-character through text messages that the audience can barely read—if they can discern the messages at all—because the camerawork is so jerky and frenetic. And this is the part where I’d normally point out the things I liked in the movie, but, come on—they spent a lot of money on the action sequences and explosions look realistic and fine, that much is obvious, but it’s all a bunch of overwhelming white noise, and I just cannot, for the life of me, think of one, single, solitary redeeming aspect of this film—one thing that makes me want to stand up and say, “Yes, but this one particular thing was really good.” Bourne also establishes itself as another in a long line of Hollywood action movies that put a lot of the plot’s weight on hacking and computers, without having any idea how hacking and computers work. In no particular order, this movie presents us with: Portable USB drives with the words “ENCRYPTED FILES” emblazoned on the side in big, bolded red letters A computer hacker alerted to someone monitoring them by a pop-up on their computer screen which reads, “EXTERNAL SURVEILLANCE DETECTED” A CIA operative knowing their attempt to upload malware onto a target’s computer is successful by way of another pop-up screen which reads, “MALWARE UPLOADED” A hacker who tries to figure out if they can gain access to a particular computer by clicking their mouse over a picture of a computer and reading the, yes, pop-up window which reads, “ACCESS POSSIBLE”. My favorite, though: the CIA database which displays remarkably detailed subject bio pages, along with helpfully relevant accompanying dialogue boxes which tell us this particular person is “CONNECTED TO JASON BOURNE”. Now, I know that Hollywood will always take liberties with the particulars of the real world—who but I and other Las Vegas residents know, or care, that it wouldn’t take a high-speed chase ten minutes to travel from the ARIA hotel to the Bellagio resort?—but the computer hacking scenes are portrayed with as much grim gravity as everything else in the film, and they desperately beg to be taken seriously, to be seen as “Important” and “Real,” and thus open themselves to criticism and outright ridicule when they fail so miserably to even glimpse the outer perimeter of realism. Also, beyond any specific flaws of the movie itself, I must take this opportunity to issue a very hearty F*ck You to the Motion Picture Association of America. Jason Bourne did not depict any exploding heads, pulsating hearts ripped from chests, or gruesomely severed limbs; but it contains some of the most unflinchingly visceral depictions of violence I have ever seen on screen. When one character is shot by a sniper rifle while riding a motorcycle, we see the bullet enter her back, slamming her body into a concrete wall, and then watch her lay gasping and spasming on the ground as she bleeds to death. Later, when Jason Bourne falls from a building, we hear the crunch as his cheek smashes into the asphalt, and the see the simultaneous spurting of blood from the side of his face that accompanies the impact. Mingled amongst these scenes are snaps, cracks, spurts, and bullet holes that the camera and microphones never flinch from, and seem to openly embrace and celebrate. And yet Jason Bourne quietly carries a PG-13 rating, while I’m certain that all of the above with the additions of a couple f-bombs and/or sets of naked genitals would have set it sailing over the R-bar. And while I know—we all know—that we in America have long been much more comfortable with graphic violence than nudity or cursing in our entertainment, it’s nonetheless disconcerting to watch this movie in a crowded theatre and think that the moral arbiters of what is acceptable in cinema would be perfectly okay with preteens seeing this movie—as long as Mom and Dad say it’s okay. And again, I have no problem with violence in cinema—my favorite shows of all time are, in no particular order, The Wire, The Wire, and The Wire. But I do take issue—will always take issue—with the idea that hearing fuck or seeing a boob is somehow worse for our poor, impressionable youth than seeing, literally, no fewer than twenty people shot to death in a two-hour time span. Tangentially connected to that, on a more existential sort of level, I found myself, while watching Jason Bourne, becoming increasingly uncomfortable the further into the film I got. I’ve realized that I have a hard time, anymore, being entertained by violence so firmly rooted in the real world. Yes, heads get chopped off in Game of Thrones and all the best horror movies feature at least one ghastly grinning corpse, but as the movie depicted an assassination attempt at a crowded Las Vegas tech convention, all I could think was, that’s about two miles from my apartment, and I can easily see it happening for real. When Jason Bourne and Nicky try to evade the CIA by pushing their way through a massive street protest in Greece, what came to mind were images from my own country of angry Americans clashing with police in riot gear. A character being told his father’s death came at the hands of a car bombing by an Islamic terrorist group, it hits a little too close to home. And I can’t easily cheer gun violence in movies anymore, when it’s so hard to not be reminded of all the real people being shot and killed in America today, and the very emotional and public debate surrounding that fact. None of this, of course, is the fault of the film itself. It can’t help what’s going on in our world and has no control over how one random guy is going to react to it. And perhaps—okay, probably—this is the real-world echo the film is going for. But it certainly doesn’t come across as it’s obviously intended to. Jason Bourne, in effect, asks the audience to simultaneously cheer when our titular protagonist lobs a Molotov cocktail while being pursued by government operatives, and nod knowingly, sagely, when characters make real-world allusions to the intersection of personal privacy and public safety. It’s a marriage that can’t coexist, probably not even in a great film, and certainly not in this one. All things being equal, I could say that Jason Bourne is a perfectly acceptable, if ultimately disposable, summer action movie. That the environment in which we live, the tendency of all “hacking” movies to have no idea what they’re talking about, and the particular sensibilities of an individual viewer are not the fault of the film itself. But all things are not equal, and Bourne is one of those unfortunate films that holds itself up as something somehow “more” than your typical explodey action flick, as more “important,” “intelligent,” and “relevant” than your Transporters and your Fast and Furiouses. Which is fine, great, and wonderful, but the movie comes nowhere close to clearing the high bar it sets for itself. And with the backdrop of real terrorism and violence, real civil unrest, and real government surveillance concerns surrounding us, its story doesn’t seem to understand the gravitas of the themes it so clumsily attempts to explore. 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