Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie review: "Jason Bourne"

Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassell, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed
Directed by Paul Greengrass

After the conclusion of “The Bourne Ultimatum” in 2007, it appeared CIA operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) would finally be free to move on with his life carrying a somewhat clean conscience.

The film also signaled what was expected to be the last in the action series for Damon and director Paul Greengrass, who helmed the latter two of the original trilogy. The decision by Damon and Greengrass to move on led Universal, the studio behind the franchise, to continue it without either man’s involvement. “The Bourne Legacy,” (2012) while an inferior entry in the series to those that preceded it, was still a decent piece of filmmaking.

Yet Bourne fans still clamored for Damon to return — hence the arrival of “Jason Bourne” (new to Blu-ray and DVD), an action-packed chapter in the franchise that entertains even as it does little to really advance the title character’s raison d’etre. Greengrass is also back behind the camera as the story takes the viewer to multiple international locations before wrapping up on American soil.

Motivated by information illegally obtained by another former CIA employee (Julia Stiles, reprising her role), Bourne emerges to cause headaches for current CIA staffers, including director Robert Dewey (a sufficiently grumpy Tommy Lee Jones) and an ambitious agent (Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander) who begins to question the ethics of her employer.

The cast is uniformly solid and the pacing moves swiftly to keep the story from getting too stagnant. However, there is still the feeling that the franchise is spinning its wheels a bit, as it reintroduces old characters while bringing in fresh faces. Needless to say, the movie doesn’t serve as a good introduction to the Bourne series, as some dialogue along with brief flashbacks reference previous films. New audiences might not be outright confused, but will be left in the dark on some of the prior relationships already established.

More so than any other role he’s taken on, Damon has to rely heavily on the physicality of his character who expresses himself much more through actions than words. It speaks to the acting abilities of Damon to illicit sympathy for Bourne largely through facial expressions and sheer physical determination rather than lengthy speeches or pithy one-liners.

“Jason Bourne” definitely brings the action throughout, with a number of memorable set pieces (including a wild vehicle pursuit on the Las Vegas Strip). Yet the story feels a bit undercooked, as if it’s more a setup for a future Bourne offering. In case anybody would have doubts, the movie’s conclusion leaves that door wide open. Let’s just hope that if Bourne decides to walk though that door, it won’t take another nine years.

Grade: B
(Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.)