Hey Jason Bourne, long time, no see. What’s new?
Nothing new at all in “Jason Bourne,” the fourth movie in the Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass super-spy cycle. Let’s just forget the 2012 Jeremy Renner franchise spinoff “The Bourne Legacy.” “Jason Bourne” does. There’s no acknowledgement of that one in this picture.)
“Jason Bourne” is a wall-to-wall recycling of the greatest moments of the first three “Bournes,” “Identity,” “Supremacy” and “Ultimatum”: chases (the picture is one long chase), explosive hand-to-hand fights, boiled-down dialogue and grim faces staring endlessly into computer screens feeding imagery from around the world showing Bourne eluding and dismantling armies of pursuers.
It’s all ever so familiar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because those Damon/Greengrass pictures are really, really good. They’re smartly scripted, tautly directed and tersely acted.
“Jason Bourne” gets two out of three of those elements just right: direction and acting. As to the scripting … well let’s just say the story is thin but the action is robust.
Off the grid and in hiding since 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” super spy Jason Bourne is pulled back into the light by his one trusted ally in the whole world, on-the-lam CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She’s found information that can further flesh out the story of Bourne’s past, lost in the haze of his amnesia. It’s a family matter, having to do with Bourne’s father, a high-level operative himself, who comes to a bad end in several flashbacks, and whose demise sets Bourne on the hunt for the people who did the dirty deed to his dad.
The story by Greengrass, who co-wrote the script with Christopher Rouse, is pretty weak sauce. It basically provides an excuse for the action, which is virtually nonstop.
From the opening scene that finds Bourne and Nicky fleeing a relentless assassin (Vincent Cassel) amid clouds of tear gas and deluges of Molotov cocktails during a riot in Athens, it’s man-on-the-run time from Greece to Berlin to Las Vegas with squads of hit men trying and failing to, as Tommy Lee Jones’ CIA chief says, “put down” the rogue agent.
Bourne is, as always, the thinking man’s spy, ferocious in his concentration as he outwits his adversaries. Damon plays him as self-contained, unflappable, laconic (in an interview he’s said Bourne has only about 25 lines of dialogue) and warily watchful. And grim.
Grim too is Jones. Craggy and seamed, he fits snugly into the Bourne matrix, ordering executions with such remorseless frequency that he turns the CIA into an assassination bureau. Alicia Vikander, playing another agent, has relatively little to do, other than snap “copy that” in response to information and commands that come her way.
For all the impressive production values and globe-trotting location work “Jason Bourne,” like its predecessors, has a bare bones feel to it, all muscle, no fat, all forward momentum, no dead air.
Yes, it’s familiar in a way that’s almost comforting. It delivers what fans of the franchise have come to expect in a very satisfactory way.
☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles.
Director: Paul Greengrass.
Running time: 2:03.
Rated: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language .