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Bourne again - 'Jason Bourne'

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Damon returns for fourth Jason Bourne film

The sheer number of films that come out each year can prove to be a bit overwhelming. There are so many, in fact, that it is inevitable that there will be occasional gaps in coverage simply put, it's really hard to see everything.

This is the case even with those of us who watch movies for a living. While I feel as though the amount of film consumption in which I've partaken over the past eight years or so has been more than adequate, the reality is that my exposure to films prior to that run is much sparser. This brings me to one of my rather surprising coverage gaps.

You see, I had never seen any of Matt Damon's Jason Bourne films until I sat down to see 'Jason Bourne' Damon's fourth go-round with the character.

(Note: I did see and review 2012's semi-sequel/reboot 'The Bourne Legacy' starring Jeremy Renner, though that film appears to have been more or less ignored by this latest sequel, so I guess I will ignore it as well.)

Damon's Bourne has been living off the grid for a number of years, doing whatever necessary to survive (his primary source of income appears to be illicit underground fighting rings). However, his old ally Nicky (Julia Stiles, 'Misconduct') has obtained a wealth of classified black ops information including intel about Bourne's past and the truth about how he became entangled in the machinations of Operation Treadstone.

A CIA analyst named Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander, 'The Danish Girl') is tracking the hack administered by Nicky and passing her findings along to CIA Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, 'The Homesman'). Director Dewey has a vested interest in preventing this hacked information from becoming public and is willing to do anything to prevent it and Bourne from surfacing, going so far as to enlist a mysterious agent (Vincent Cassel, 'The Little Prince') to do whatever it takes to make it all go away.

Meanwhile, in the middle of all of this, there's a CIA-backed social media tycoon named Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed, TV's 'The Night Of') who is looking to get out of his arrangement with the agency an arrangement that Dewey and company like just fine as it is.

And so, all of these disparate elements go rampaging through cities across the globe, with Jason Bourne using all of the skills at his disposal in an effort to stay one step ahead of his pursuers and find a way to uncover the truth.

Having spent nearly a decade as a film critic, I realize that opportunities such as this to see a franchise film without having experienced the previous installments have become all but impossible. So it was fascinating to sit and watch this film unfold with little more than a bare-bones understanding of the extended storyline, although I have to saymy lack of knowledge didn't really matter.

That's not intended as a condemnation of the movie, though I suppose it could be read as such. 'Jason Bourne' is, in many ways, almost a distillation of the blockbuster action movie. This is a movie that contains all of the elements of high-octane action car chases and gunfire and computer hackers and fistfights and what have you without worrying overly much about things like plot. There's a story, mind you, but it seems to exist solely to give Jason Bourne reason and opportunity to do Jason Bourne-like things.

And speaking as someone with no prior experience in Bourne's world that's OK.

There's no denying the frantic, kinetic impact of the action sequences, although director Paul Greengrass (who co-wrote the script and directed the first two Bourne films) might be a little too in love with the handheld shaky-cam aesthetic it's a stylistic choice that amps up the dynamism, but at the expense of coherence. Still, the set pieces are strong across the board.

It seems strange that Damon is willing to revisit this character after so many years away, but there's no denying that the role still suits him. This is an older, wearier Jason Bourne one who had all but given up hope before being pulled back into the illicit orbits of his old life. That said, there are some moments that just feeloff. It's as if Damon wasn't given quite enough to do and his efforts to fill those gaps fail to resonate.

Tommy Lee Jones is all underhanded crustiness as the CIA director. This is a role that he could play in his sleep, although judging by the bags under his eyes, perhaps he was playing it instead of sleeping. Regardless, he's a pro and does solid work for what is clearly a paycheck performance. Vikander seems like she's having fun slumming it a bit; she's better than she needs to be in this one. Cassel is suitably enigmatic as the unnamed 'asset,' while Julia Stiles is probably just psyched to get a gig.

I have no basis for comparison regarding 'Jason Bourne' and its relationship to the previous films. Knowledge of the prior films might fill in a few blanks, but it is certainly not necessary the long gap between films led to some simplification. Ultimately, as a stand-alone film, it is a perfectly acceptable piece of popcorn cinema.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 13:05


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