Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Jason Bourne

So after Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum it appears the Bourne films have run out of nouns. Or should that be nous?

True, the Bourne series starring Matt Damon in the title role already damaged its reputation with 2012's Damon-free Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner as yet another amnesiac CIA super-assassin from the same lab whence sprung our Jase.

But this latest one takes what made the original Bourne trilogy special and squanders it with a hackneyed story of revenge, cyber surveillance, Silicon Valley and Langley office politics.

Matt Damon is still solid as Bourne, even when he's forced to take occasional moments for furrow-browed existential despair.
Matt Damon is still solid as Bourne, even when he's forced to take occasional moments for furrow-browed existential despair.

Even its abundant action scenes can't save it from feeling like a greatest hits compilation of returning Bourne director Paul Greengrass' previous Supremacy and Ultimatum.

Those movies managed the trick of making you believe this could be happening in the real world, and made you care about the fate of Bourne as he turned the tables on his spymasters.

This one has an only-in-the-movies contrived dumbness to it. Especially when it gets to Las Vegas for its grand finale.

Back at the beginning, having the guy's full name in this one might indicate that this time it's personal. It is, kind of, story wise at least.

It seems Bourne's Dad had a role in the agency programme to turn his good soldier son into a automaton black ops killer. That's no spoiler. That's a revelation delivered within the opening scenes - and in multiple flashbacks after that in case we missed it first time round.

Back in the present, it seems that Bourne last seen swimming his way out of New York is spending his days beating up the tattooed thugs of Europe in bare-knuckled fights.

It's his coping mechanism, or something, for the trauma suffered in the original trilogy.

But he gets dragged back in when his old mate from IT, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA and finds the paternal connection to Bourne's time in the Treadstone project.

Soon, they're rendezvousing in the middle of an Athens political riot while being tracked by the agency's all-seeing tech.

Bourne last seen swimming his way out of New York is spending his days beating up the tattooed thugs of Europe in bare-knuckled fights.
Bourne last seen swimming his way out of New York is spending his days beating up the tattooed thugs of Europe in bare-knuckled fights.

Bourne heads off on a fact finding mission through Berlin, London, and back to the US with Tommy Lee Jones' CIA boss, his head hacker (Alicia Vikander) and his designated assassin (Cassel) all out to take him down.

It's personal for those three too, their own motivations for getting Bourne clouding their judgements and creating their own deceptions.

And then there's that Silicon Valley big data connection, with the Zuckerberg-like boss of a social media giant under pressure from Jones to open a backdoor to the company's new platform, given the Agency's support at the start-up stage.

His presence at a tech conference - where he'll be sharing a stage with Jones's CIA director (huh?) - brings the whole shooting match to Vegas, possibly the least interesting place the Bourne movies have been yet.

Along the way, Edward Snowden gets a namecheck. So does Syria. While a Mediterranean refugee camp and the Athens sequence give this more ripped-from-the-headlines touches. And there's a Wikileaks-like cabal of hackers figuring in the background.

But there's something curiously fake to this Jason Bourne and it's not just his name. Damon is still solid as Bourne even when he's forced to take occasional moments for furrow-browed existential despair (or is it gas?).

Julia Stiles doesn't get much to do after getting the story rolling in Jason Bourne.
Julia Stiles doesn't get much to do after getting the story rolling in Jason Bourne.

He's just a lot less intriguing than back when he was on his voyage of self-discovery and ass-kickery.

Stiles doesn't get much to do after getting the story rolling.

Vikander's young Stanford-trained careerist agent seem to represent the rise of digital native Millennials into positions of power at places like the CIA.

But she's a one dimensional character with some leaden lines. As her boss, Jones certainly represents the old guard.

Actually he made me wonder if the CIA has a compulsory retirement age.

Yep, that Jones dude looks as tired as this movie feels.

Jason Bourne

Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel
Director: Paul Greengrass
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 123 mins
Verdict: Still Bourne

- NZ Herald

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