Jason Bourne is back in spectacular style

Originally published inLGBT Weekly

Matt Damon in Jason Bourne

Aside from making a great deal of money, there was no reason to make another Jason Bourne movie. After three of them – The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – the amnesiac assassin that the CIA tried to get rid of has regained his memories and gotten revenge. Plenty of people were killed, cars were destroyed, Matt Damon had earned cred for his gritty physicality and director Paul Greengrass went from British indies to the Hollywood A-list. There was an attempt at a reboot with Jeremy Renner that was a big meh, and then Damon and Greengrass announced they’d do another movie. Damon has claimed it was because they came up with a great story. This is hard to believe. The story is half-baked at best. But by golly the action is spectacular.

The film opens with Bourne living off the grid, making a living bare-knuckle fighting suckers in what appears to be a refugee camp in Greece. He’s not happy, looks terrible, but, hey, he’s free from being a pawn for the cynics running CIA black ops. Cut to Iceland where Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a former CIA agent who had helped Bourne in the previous films, enters a secret hacker safe house and manages to break into the CIA’s servers in about 22 seconds. Immediately and absurdly, everyone in the CIA knows this is happening, exactly who is doing it and the specific address where it’s being done – and then any semblance of reality vanishes when the CIA’s young cyber espionage chief Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) barks to her staff in Langley, Virginia, to turn off the power to the building in Iceland. And they do. Not since Sandra Bullock’s The Net have I seen a movie with so many technologically based plot points that were so ridiculous.

In no time (literally), the CIA manages to track Nicky – a former CIA agent and expert hacker who likely would have some knowledge how to avoid detection – to Athens where she’s meeting Bourne.

Apparently, she feels that Bourne needs to know what she found out during the hack, that his father was somehow involved in him becoming a brain-washed, cold-blooded killer. The CIA sends a team of assassins to capture or kill their rogue agents. The chase through Athens, which is embroiled in extreme rioting, is where we get what we want from Bourne and Greengrass: adrenalin-pumping action choreographed and shot with less beauty than in Mad Max: Fury Road but with just as much skill and as many thrills.

Without the outrageously great action sequences, which are thankfully many, the movie would be a ho-hum B-movie spy caper. Since there is so little characterization of Bourne beyond him being violent and pissed, we have very little reason to care about what his father might have done. Jason Bourne is a taciturn cypher, and this makes him somewhat of a waste for Damon’s skills. CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, phoning it in from another planet) is a bad guy, but we don’t know why. The searing Vincent Cassel is Dewey’s personal assassin and has some sort of reason to hate Bourne but it’s vague and such motivation seems unnecessary for a guy who will kill anyone for any reason. Vikander is one of the most exciting actresses working but her character, however intriguing, is a shadow of a sketch. Why she decides, on a whim, to go rogue and help Bourne happens without expectation. I guess we’re supposed to think, “Oh, it’s Jason Bourne. Of course the pretty lady will help him.”

Jason Bourne is fun and exciting, but it’s both unnecessary and dopey, which none of the previous Bourne films were.

Jason Bourne

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Written by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse

Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones

Rated PG-13

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