Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Runtime: 2 hrs., 3 mins.
Jason Bourne returns for the fifth time, and judging by the dollar totals for opening weekend, you could see him for several more sequels. It appears the public can’t get enough of this superhuman road-rage agent, even though the basic plot doesn’t change.
Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), returns to the helm. Unfortunately, he must reset the table by using flashbacks to reveal old and new details of Bourne’s life. Of course, different government villains have replaced previous government villains, but they’re still the same villains.
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has been laying low in Greece for the last several years. As a sideline, he’s hit the underground boxing circuit. It seems that whatever blows he’s received have loosened his memories about his life prior to Treadstone.
His old amour, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), is also on the lam. In Iceland, she hacks into the CIA’s mainframe and downloads all the files on Treadstone and its successor, Blackbriar. Her plan is to give these files to Bourne so he can learn about his own family history.
Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), head of the CIA’s Cyber Ops division in Langley, Virginia, learns of the hack and informs stone-faced CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). Lee volunteers to take the lead in the case. Meanwhile, Dewey hires a man called the Asset (Vincent Cassel) to kill Jason and Nicky in Athens, Greece. The heat is on.
If all of this sounds familiar, you’re right. It is. There are the usual confrontations, car chases, bodies splayed everywhere, along with ample close-ups of Jones’ weather-beaten features and Damon’s pained expressions. Plus, as you might expect, no one from the government knows how to catch or stop Bourne, or even convince him to just play nice and come home to Langley.
Even the talented director Greengrass can’t find much of an original spin on this tale, at least not until the end, when the story finally starts to find its emotional thread in the connection between Lee and Bourne.
I know the reason this film was made. Money, pure and simple, and that’s OK. The first three financially successful Bourne films carried their weight and managed to make us care about Bourne’s amnesia. Here we discover his true past, and that should add gravitas to the story. Instead, it feels tacked on. Yes, we learn of the connection between father and son, but it doesn’t feel very connected.
In addition, there’s the side plot between Dewey and high-tech entrepreneur Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), developer of a software company called Deep Dream. I’m not sure (yet) why this pops up in this particular film. Maybe there’s something more ominous down the line, but here again, the connections to Bourne are loose at best. Protection of privacy as a front for government spying? Stay tuned, I guess.
What we’re left with are the action scenes, which, as always, are spectacular, particularly the final showdown between Bourne and the Asset. If you’re a fan of firepower, power bikes and car chases, you won’t be disappointed. There are those aplenty in Bourne and all the vehicles that get mangled in the process. If you like demolition, you can’t beat an armored Humvee racing through the streets of Las Vegas. It’s jolly mayhem.
Jason Bourne is a mixed bag at best. Action freaks will enjoy. Story enthusiasts, not so much. Where else can Jason run to? That’s the question that begs an answer at film’s end. Kazakhstan? The Hebrides? Juarez? Watching Bourne is like watching a souped-up travel documentary. It beats reading Fromme travel guides or listening to Rick Steves on NPR, but it’s a story that’s locked in. So what is your tolerance for repetition? Well, brace yourself. Bourne will be back. In this case, I grow weary.