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Soundtrack review: Jason Bourne (John Powell & David Buckley – 2016)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Jason Bourne (John Powell & David Buckley – 2016)


“Jason Bourne” is a 2016 American spy action thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Greengrass and its editor, Christopher Rouse. It is the fifth installment of the Bourne film series and the direct sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). Matt Damon reprises his role as the main character, former CIA assassin and psychogenic amnesiac Jason Bourne. In the film, Bourne tries to uncover hidden truths about his past, now remembering who he truly is. The film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles and Riz Ahmed. The score was written by John Powel and David Buckley.

I have a huge nostalgia for this character and his adventures. I loved the books, I loved the original TV movie starring Richard Chamberlain and I enjoyed the Matt Damon movies. Unfortunately I did not enjoy John Powell’s scores for the franchise even though I am a big fan of his. Something didn’t click and I’m hoping fourth time is the charm. I’m hoping for Powell to channel what he did for another Matt Damon thriller “The green zone”.

The Bourne theme or, better said, the Bourne motif is easily recognizable though and welcomes me from the opening cue “I remember everything”. The thing is the composer can’t change much of the sound of this franchise since the script and general feel of the movies don’t either. The music finds its comfort zone with alert and pulsating motifs and quiet investigative time. For me the Bourne movies are all about blistering action and energy and I want to hear that in the score. Hope finds me at the end of “Converging in Athens” when the rhythm changes for a bit.

But then there’s a cue called “Motorcycle chase” and the music still doesn’t take off. Halfway through I hear as if the composers are trying to turn the key but the engine still sputters from my point of view. I keep imagining the movie scenes and the music doesn’t give me that adrenaline rush. It keeps me alert but it doesn’t explode until the last minute or so which makes me regret the rest of the cue.

John Powell has created a clear musical identity for this franchise and “Jason Bourne” exhibits it through every note. Unfortunately it’s not a sound I can really connect to and the energy and pace of “The green zone” is still far away. I cling to a short string motif in “Flat assault”, I am looking for meaningful moments for me in this score but they are not many. Once again the music will work very well in context but doesn’t do enough for me as a standalone listen.

“Strip chase” is the only cue that gives me what I’m looking for, from the emotion in the beginning to the spectacular and suffocating action pace. This is the Bourne feeling for me and I don’t understand why the whole score couldn’t be like that.

If you enjoyed the first three Bourne scores you will definitely like this one as well. The new installment doesn’t add anything to the usual sound but it doesn’t diminish it either. It’s more of the same so you should know what to expect. As was the case before, the new version of Moby’s “Extreme ways” comes to save the ending.

Cue rating: 76 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 61

Album excellence: 16%


Strip chase

Extreme ways (Jason Bourne)


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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