Director Paul Greengrass reunites with Matt Damon for another action-packed installment of the popular franchise. Rating: 2-and-a-half out of 4 stars.
Back in 2007, Matt Damon’s CIA assassin Jason Bourne disappeared — swimming away in New York’s East River at the end of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” presumed dead but very much alive. Since then, we’ve had an unsatisfying “Bourne” movie without him (“The Bourne Legacy,” which starred Jeremy Renner as, well, a guy who wasn’t Bourne), and nine years of clamor for Damon and his “Bourne Supremacy”/ “Bourne Ultimatum” director Paul Greengrass to reunite for one more outing. Now they have, for “Jason Bourne,” and … well, maybe nine years was too long.
It’s not that “Jason Bourne” is a bad movie. Like every installment in this franchise, it’s meticulously and breathlessly edited, well-acted (with one exception) and handsomely filmed in a far-flung variety of world cities. Its plot, in a nutshell: Bourne, off the grid for many years, is revealed to be in Greece, brooding and troubled. A figure from his past re-connects with him: former fellow operative Nicky Parsons (a curiously deadpan Julia Stiles). Meanwhile, they’re being watched at the CIA, where new leadership includes director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and brilliant young hacker Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander of “The Danish Girl”) — who believes that Bourne could, perhaps, be brought back into the fold.
There’s a potentially fascinating story here, of a brainwashed assassin who’s walked away from his past only to find, as one character notes, “he left behind his reason to exist.” But “Jason Bourne” doesn’t really probe that storyline; instead, it’s a jittery flash-connect of motorcycle chases, car crashes (particularly an impressive if tardy pileup near the end), anxious-looking people barking orders and “Copy that!” at each other, and screenshots of files downloading while ominous music plays. (The latter has rapidly become a 21st-century spy-movie cliché. How much fun is it watching files copy, really?)
Movie Review ★★½
‘Jason Bourne,’ with Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed. Directed by Paul Greengrass, from a screenplay by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, based on characters created by Robert Ludlam. 123 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language. Several theaters.
Through it all, you watch Damon (now a little gray at the temples; how is it possible that this ever-boyish actor is middle-aged?) and think about his progression as an artist: the troubled kid of “Good Will Hunting”; the canny psychopath of “The Talented Mr. Ripley”; the shifty, eager sleight-of-hand artist in “Ocean’s 11” (the Las Vegas setting of “Jason Bourne” brings this one back); the goofball pilot on TV’s “30 Rock”; the lonely astronaut determined to survive in “The Martian.” Jason Bourne might well belong on that list, but not because of “Jason Bourne.” The movie gets lost in its focus on flash and speed, and forgets about the man — and the fine, quiet actor — at its center.
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