JASON BOURNE (7 out of 10) Directed by Paul Greengrass; Written by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse; Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles; Rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language;" Running time 123 minutes; In wide release July 29, 2016.
Bourne is back, and that is essentially all you need to know about this film. While it might not rise to the level of the first two films in the series, it is certainly an improvement on 2012's "The Bourne Legacy," which didn't have Jason Bourne in it at all.
Matt Damon reteams with director Paul Greengrass, who seems to have toned down his signature shaky cam. Their mission? Jason Bourne, off the grid and off his former CIA handlers' radar for years, is tipped off that the CIA is restarting another black ops program similar to Treadstone that created him. He also catches wind of the CIA's involvement in surveilling him and messing with his and his father's life even before he joined. So, like Bourne does, he takes the fight to them.
This time the CIA is led by Tommy Lee Jones and new cyber division chief Alicia Vikander, and they're teaming with a Silicon Valley giant for unknown nefarious mass surveillance purposes. It's a solid, cogent plot that helps drive the action and character development we expect from these movies.
Unfortunately the technobabble here is unforgivably bad. It simultaneously both under and overestimates the actual cyber capabilities of our national security apparatus-- doing things with a few keystrokes ("Run Predictive Algorithm") that are likely impossible without hours of detailed analysis. When it focuses on this aspect of the spycraft, invoking the name of Snowden as some sort of electronic boogeyman, it loses all credibility and believability.
But the action sequences are mostly fun. They don't quite have the freshness of the first several films, but they're exciting if maybe a little far-fetched. A final car chase scene through the streets of Las Vegas borders on almost silly. It doesn't compare well with previous chases in both "The Bourne Identity" and "The Bourne Supremacy," both of which were among the most exciting and fun car chases of the last two decades.
But what you're really here to see is Bourne. Matt Damon has incredibly little dialogue here, and prefers to do most of his communicating with his one-punch-knockout fists. It's just fun to watch him inhabit this role, and equally fun to see him play off of Jones and Vikander, who are also both at the top of their game.
It's unfortunate this film doesn't do much more than just re-establish the character and possibly set up future sequels. While there are some revelations about Bourne's background, it's hard to see how he could distrust the CIA or have reason to take them down any more than he already does.
But this is overall an enjoyable movie. While not as stellar as some of its previous films, it is serviceable, and mostly just fun to watch Matt Damon punch people.
7 out of 10