Jason Bourne is back and derivative as ever. The super-spy’s eponymous blockbuster kicked ass at the box office this weekend, reminding us that Matt Damon is still good at this shit, some nine years later. It’s great to see Will Hunting in spy mode again, but it’s still unclear as to why he came back. The new film never presents Bourne with a real reason to emerge from hiding, which involves him bareknuckle fighting to make a little cash, and sadly doesn’t add much to the mythos. There’s just another mysterious memory about the government program that created him, this time involving his father. The movie’s success, in the context of its lack of inventiveness, begs one question: What is Bourne going to do when he inevitably returns for one final brawl?
Each Bourne sequel is ostensibly the same movie over and over again with slivers of new information added on; but considering the open-ended climax of Jason Bourne, the filmmakers have a real chance to build on their successes with Bourne 6. Here’s what Bourne might do next. Beware of spoilers…
5. Bring Together the Brainwashed Masses
The main reason The Bourne Legacy failed was because audiences didn’t want the ingredients of a Bourne movie without Damon’s character present — and we don’t mean in passing reference or photographs. With the proliferation of secret government programs that have created the likes of Bourne and Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross, it’s obvious that there is room for a bigger spy canvas. Jason Bourne hinted at this with Vincent Cassel’s Blackbriar assassin who joins the operation to get revenge on Bourne for helping to leak the Treadstone documents in The Bourne Ultimatum and blowing his cover. But what if these fellow assassins became friends? Cross and Bourne are out there operating off the grid, so maybe they or Bourne and another Treadstone assassin out in the cold could team up in the forthcoming sequel to reveal even deeper government craziness.
4. Put the Retconning to Rest
Jason Bourne falters because it never gives an adequate reason for Bourne to suddenly come back on the grid after nine years of hiding. Yes, Julia Stiles Nicky Parsons character tells him some cryptic stuff about his father, which ultimately leads him into finding out he was the reason he was roped into Treadstone in the first place, but it’s too little, too late. The Bourne franchise has a bad habit of finding its plot by using the same narrative device ad nauseum: Bourne suddenly remembering something, changing everything that came before it. This ploy worked the first few times because he was so brainwashed that you’d imagine some memories would breakthrough. But after nine years you’d think Bourne would gradually remember more, and his father’s assassination wouldn’t suddenly boil over into retconning the entire franchise. It’s cheap, and pulls the rug out from the audience in a way that seems like it’s taking advantage of them instead of surprising them with a clever twist.
It’s time the Bourne series starts looking forward instead of backwards. Yes, Bourne’s indoctrination into the Treadstone Program is the key moment of the entire thing, but the franchise should focus on what that does to him as an AWOL spy moving forward instead of constantly (and conveniently in terms of a storytelling standpoint) recalling new information.
3. Give Aaron Kalloor a Choice
Bourne is, for better or worse, a bit of a secondary character in his own movie, popping up because a more important plotline draws him to different far-flung locales since his personal questions need answering, not because he’s specifically involved in the narrative. If we want to zero in on the important players in the movie, then Jason Bourne should have been called Aaron Kalloor and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Social Media Platform. One of the main plot points in the entire somewhat convoluted movie is the fact that Tommy Lee Jones’s CIA Director Dewey character has recruited the Zuckerberg-esque Kalloor (played by Riz Ahmed) to use the technology developed for his lucrative social media platform called Deep Dream for a secret real-time mass surveillance program to complement their other black-ops programs like Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome, and LARX.
Kalloor, feeling the ethical and moral fallout from his obedience to the CIA, wants to reveal Dewey’s whole scheme, but Dewey has the Asset try to take him out during the films Las Vegas tech convention climax. The extent of Kalloor’s involvement, and what it could mean, is left open at the end of the movie with Kalloor vowing to cooperate with an investigation into co-opting Deep Dream for government gains. In the sequel, we could see how this would help and/or hurt him.
2. Fight Alicia Vikander
The standout role in Jason Bourne belongs to the Oscar-winner’s CIA Cyber Ops Division head, Heather Lee, perhaps because she’s a new character that brings a new set of complications to the tried-and-true Bourne formula. Savvy and vulnerable all at once, Vikander plays Lee as someone whose objectivist outlook makes her sway into either side of the good guy/bad guy divide throughout the entire movie. Her actions at the end, suggesting that she’s going to take advantage of Bourne’s supposed trust in her to recruit him back into the government fold, it’s the slyest and most-earned twist in the movie because the audience trusted her just as Bourne did.
That Bourne leaves the movie — once again walking off to the tune of Moby’s “Extreme Ways” to who-knows-where — knowing that she sold him out suggests that her betrayal will come back to haunt her. Her assertion that Dewey’s methods were outdated, and that her more modern sensibilities will actually help their cause means that she’ll make an amazing villain in the follow-up because she doesn’t know the extent of her own menace.
1. Suffer for America 🇺🇸🇺🇸 🇺🇸
Bourne’s patriotism is constantly mentioned throughout Jason Bourne, with those sympathetic to him commending his patriotism for making the Treadstone Program public. Others on the government side of things praise his love for the country because of his duties as an operative during his years in action, citing it as the main reason he could be coaxed back into helping the government again.
The whistleblower thing has been done before, and is the easy out for the next Bourne movie, but the inverted sense of patriotism lobbied for Bourne to come back into service is a much more complicated and jarring narrative that could give a great screenwriter a lot of meat to chew on. Bourne is obviously a fractured guy, and as he exited Jason Bourne he arguably has the least amount of trust in his government handlers than he’s ever had, but give him a reason to be interested in talking once again without it being some reference to an old Treadstone memory – and it could be just what the spy sequel needs.
Photos via Getty Images / Ethan Miller, Facebook / TheBourneSeries