Thursday, August 11, 2016
JASON BOURNE (Paul Greengrass, 2016)
In JASON BOURNE the title character (Matt Damon) is regaining his memory while staying off the CIA’s radar, but he still has questions about his nebulous past before becoming an operative for the agency. Former colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA and obtain files key to helping Bourne understand who has used and deceived him for many years. Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), head of the CIA’s cyber unit, spots Parsons’ activity and manages to place malware on the downloaded files, although important information is still in the hands of a rogue agent.
Parsons arranges to meet Bourne in Athens while intelligence officials strategize how to nab or eliminate them. As the chase spreads to Berlin and then London, Lee appeals to CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) to let her oversee the operation to bring Bourne back in and reestablish him as the valuable asset he is. Meanwhile, Dewey faces another threat to the agency’s power and secrecy when Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), the CEO of a social media corporation, threatens to come clean about the confidential funding that makes his company complicit with government surveillance of the population.
As the fifth film in the series, the fourth with Damon’s Bourne character, it comes as no surprise that JASON BOURNE is essentially another serving of what has been delivered in the past. Director and co-writer Paul Greengrass is at the helm for the third time of the frenetically-shot and crisply edited action series. Editor Christopher Rouse has a co-screenwriting credit. Without knowing Rouse’s specific contributions, it makes a lot of sense for him to be credited there, as JASON BOURNE is told largely through how it’s cut. Strip the film of its dialogue, and there’s probably little crucial information the audience would miss. In the global marketplace, this film represents close to the ideal: an action movie that translates regardless of language or subtitles.
There’s much to admire on a purely technical level about how the action is sculpted. Although events often unfold in chaotic situations with a bobbing camera and short shot lengths, Greengrass and Rouse keep the viewer oriented. For all of the activity within the frames and the speed with which they change, these sequences remain coherent rather than merging into one big blur of sound and sensation. The sheer volume of frenzied pursuits and combat threatens to engulf all else. After JASON BOURNE arrives in Las Vegas and builds to a furious climax, the unrelenting motion earns hard-won appreciation, but for the first half the busy nature and usual cover-up particulars make a bland return of the star actor to the franchise.
Damon may be back back in the role for the first time in nine years, but he’s treated as if a computer scan was made of him and then animated to suit the script’s needs. It’s no reflection on Damon as a performer; he’s just playing an impersonal part in a two-hour action whirlwind. If Bourne is being fashioned as an American James Bond, then the character needs to be given the space to have a personality or be somewhat less task-oriented. Otherwise he’s just an avatar in well-executed fight scenes.