The Bourne bodycount soars as Bourne bystanders are mowed down by that Bourne in a china shop, the Bourne who would be Bond, “Jason Bourne” for the re-teaming of Matt Damon with his best Bourne director, Paul Greengrass.
It’s the most sinister Bourne movie yet, with a murderous CIA chief (Tommy Lee Jones) who will spare no expense,blackmail any tech tycoon and kill his own agents in his headlong pursuit of that righteous rogue agent, Jason Bourne, so he and his can “put him down.”
It’s the most breathless Greengrass (“United 93”, “Bloody Sunday”) movie yet, as he sets a new Olympic record for the Bourne blur of edits and handheld camera shots that create two hours of almost headache-inducing perpetual chase. It features the most humorless Tommy Lee Jones performance ever and a buff, stoic and less interesting Matt Damon turn that never seems to be about anything but a paycheck, Bourne again self-righteousness notwithstanding.
The only grace note allowed the cast is to give Julia Stiles, as that equally rogue online wizard and Bourne-handler Nicky Parsons, a noble and utterly convincing death — chest heaving from a sucking bullet wound, shock setting in. Hers is the only body in this body-strewn thriller we feel for, and no, it’s not a spoiler alert when she dies in the opening act.
Bourne has long been underground, off-the-grid, making a living in bareknuckle back alley brawls along the crisis-torn borders of Greece as “One Blow Bourne” — who fells foes with a single punch. Damn the simple laws of physics and relative throw-weights.
But Nicky has hacked back into the files of the “Treadstone” CIA program that created the super spy and has news about Bourne’s murky past. If only they can meet. If only her younger replacement (Alicia Vikander) hasn’t planted tracking malware into her hack, so that her boss (Jones) can find Bourne and finally “put him down.”
Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”) is a tech tycoon who preaches “privacy is freedom” with his online service, but is compromised by the CIA.
And Vincent Cassel (“Mesrine”) is sharp if under-developed as a fanatical assassin the CIA folk only refer to as “The Asset” as they deploy him to kill Bourne, wherever (London, Berlin, Las Vegas, etc.) he may be, whatever the collateral damage.
Jones has hints of his “U.S. Marshals” guise in this CIA director, barking orders from a surveillance war room where he and his can seemingly see all, tap all, anticipate all and manipulate events to their liking. That stuff, with its “What do they know about us?” implications, is meant to be chilling.
“Split the town,” he orders his teams, closing in on Bourne and Parsons during a Greek riot. “Put her in a box.”
Greengrass puts us in that Athens-wide riot, a chaos of noise, chopper shots, unclear glimpses (rendered HD by CIA software), Molotov cocktails and mayhem.
The problem is, he won’t let go. That scene, like many in the movie, goes on forever. There are no pauses to recreate empathy, no real moments of connection. Over-editing tends to spoil the chases, starving us of the intensity created by anticipating this bit of jeopardy or that one. A lot was spent on digitally enhanced car crashing that is more an assault than a rush.
The monotonous, pulsing strings of the David Buckley version of John Powell’s score grate well before we get into the second hour.
And Vikander, a magnetic presence in “Ex Machina” and an empathetic one in “The Danish Girl” is absurdly young to be playing someone this high up the chain of command, entirely too lightweight to carry the cunning and gravitas her character is contrived to have. She looks and feels like a younger re-fluffing of Franka Potente’s heroine from the first Bourne movie, back in 2002.
The visceral visuals make this a barely-serviceable/watchable summer popcorn picture. But the bar was set high too long ago for that to be enough for America’s Bond. Everybody got paid, again, sure. When that’s your only motive, your high-minded action movie wilts under scrutiny, as if it was Bourne to be bad.
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles
Credits: Directed by Paul Greengrass, script by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse, based on the Robert Ludlum character. A Universal release.
Running time: 2:03