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'Jason Bourne' Film Review: An action hero reborn, a story rehashed

July 29, 2016Ben MK

Since making his debut as Jason Bourne in 2002's The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon has played a grifter, a cop, a cowboy, a soccer player and an astronaut (twice). Now, after three outings as the memory-impaired super-soldier, Damon is once again teaming with The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass to bring the character to the big screen. And this time, all bets are off.

At least, that's what the film would have you believe at the outset, as we find Jason Bourne biding his time in some remote desert on the other side of the world, now a bare-knuckle brawler who can knock his opponents out cold with a single punch. It doesn't take long, however, for the movie to settle into a much more familiar routine, thanks to Bourne's former ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), whose efforts to hack the CIA's mainframe and expose all of the U.S. government's past and present "black operations" puts Bourne back on the agency's radar.

From there, what we get is a retread of the same narrative territory charted by Damon's Bourne trilogy: Tommy Lee Jones plays Robert Dewey, the CIA Director out to get Bourne; Alicia Vikander is Heather Lee, the agency's Head of Cyber Security, who may or may not be on Bourne's side; and Vincent Cassel is the "asset" activated to eliminate Bourne, who also happens to share an unpleasant history with him. Of course, secrets from Bourne's past also play a role; in this case, it's the events surrounding the death of his father, and the coverup that (naturally) followed.

The result is a movie that tries too hard to deliver fan service, when instead, what it's really doing is a disservice to itself. After all, it's impossible to truly buy into the film's purportedly high stakes when mostly everything on-screen is unfolding beat-for-beat in the same manner as we've seen before. Perhaps that's why Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse try to inject some topicality into the script, name-dropping Edward Snowden and interweaving a subplot concerning the CIA's plans to spy on unsuspecting citizens via an ubiquitous Internet app.

Otherwise, Jason Bourne certainly doesn't forego any opportunities when it comes to the series' level of requisite, globetrotting action, traipsing from such locales as Reykjavik and Washington to Athens, where a motorcycle chase ensues amid throngs of molotov-cocktail-wielding rioters. Then, in its second half, the story jets off to London, for some good old-fashioned, cat-and-mouse suspense, before finally settling in Las Vegas for the big finale, where a climactic car chase involving an overpowered SWAT vehicle cuts a swath of destruction through Sunset Strip traffic.

Still, none of it does anything to change the fact of the matter, which is that this latest installment in the Bourne series — though serviceable — is often bogged down by the cast's workmanlike performances, while the filmmakers' stubborn adherence to the franchise's formula serves more often as a detriment than not. Make no mistake, it's nice to see Damon reprise the iconic role after a nearly-decade-long hiatus. That being said, Jason Bourne feels like an unnecessarily drawn-out continuation, rather than a triumphant return.

Jason Bourne releases July 29th, 2016 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 3 Mins.

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