by Jaie Laplante, Director of Programming
It’s the end of the summer movie season, and for as many movies as I saw over the summer, I may have read even more film criticism.
This summer I feel there is an essential need to award not only best film (my choice: David Mackenzie’s amazing HELL OR HIGH WATER) but also best film REVIEW of the summer and give credit where credit is due. My choice for the latter is one of The New York Times’ movie critics, A.O. Scott, for his piece “In ‘Jason Bourne’, a Midlife Crisis for a Harried Former Assassin”, published on July 27th.
There’s two things that make a great movie review: terrific writing, and a terrific take on the film, that gets to the truth about the movie at a level you couldn’t see yourself. A.O. Scott’s review of the fifth installment of the JASON BOURNE series achieves both.
Every line of Scott’s piece is wryly humorous, from the opening sentence which describes the 45-year-old, incredibly fit Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) as “taciturn and carb-free” and who will spend most of the movie running through various exotic locales “with the grim determination of a tourist who desperately needs a men’s room but is too proud to ask for directions”. Later on Scott compares the new film to something of a Golden Oldies reunion tour, with a slight “absence of passion, if not of skill”.
While most reviewers of JASON BOURNE focused on the film’s impact vis-a-vis the other four films in the series, measuring such qualitative yardsticks as the pulse-factor on the chase sequences or the performances of the supporting cast, Scott found what no one else did – a core theme of the film that uniquely represented this cultural moment. That, dear readers, is the genius of the gifted film critic.
According to Scott, JASON BOURNE is “essentially a movie about human resources challenges in a large bureaucracy”, since there is no real external bad guys in the film (no mean Arabs, no threatening Russians)…”virtually all the major characters…work for the same organization (the CIA), at least on a consulting basis.”
Where other movie critics were scratching their heads in vain looking for a purpose for JASON BOURNE to even exist, Scott found it to be a “rather a somber meditation on the crisis of the Gen-X professional in the throes of middle age….Jason, for all his prodigious talent and carefully honed technique, finds himself permanently stalled on the career ladder, unable either to advance or to quit. To make matters worse, he is caught in a generational pincers grip, squeezed on one side by a self-aggrandizing and sentimental baby-boomer boss and on the other by a tech-savvy millennial rising quickly through the ranks. Poor Bourne is burdened with inconvenient historical knowledge even as he must fight a perpetual battle against his own obsolescence.”
Scott’s perceptive, brilliant review dug deep, and hit the jackpot with a review that showed the nation how to find a meaning in a popcorn film that they could relates to their own world, all the while having fun. Just as a summer review of a summer movie should. Will there be another sequel, after the unexpected box office success of Bourne #5? Scott hopes so…”at least he can keep moving until his 401(k) is fully vested, and he can finally get around to writing that novel.”
For smart critics and writers like A.O. Scott, The New York Times’ movie section alone is certainly deserving of your subscription dollars in this age of the great media shift.
– Jaie Laplante