Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review: Jason Bourne

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.
This fifth entry into the popular "Bourne" series is at once unnecessary and workmanlike, a pretty decent sequel that has little reason for existing other than cashing in. But although its story feels like something that we've seen at least, well, four times before, it's a well-made action thriller with a solid roster of names attached to it.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a super agent and soldier who, as we learned in previous sequels, was trained in a top secret government program, lost his memory and was trying to reclaim his identity. This time around, Bourne has returned to get revenge on a group of men who not only put him through that program, but were also seemingly responsible for his father's assassination some years before.

Meanwhile - and there are a lot of meanwhiles in this densely plotted thriller - a young female agent named Heather (Alicia Vikander) convinces her boss, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), to let her get involved in the attempt to track down Bourne and a brilliant social media wizard named Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) is struggling with his conscience as to how much he should cooperate with the CIA when it comes to allowing the agency to spy on his company Deep Dream's users.

There's a whole lot going on here - so much so, in fact, that if it actually all ties up at the end, well, I couldn't exactly tell you - and between the nonstop scenes of people attempting to explain what's going on, we have Bourne taking on entire groups of agents in hand-to-hand combat or fleeing a vicious assassin (Vincent Cassel) who has a vendetta against our hero. Rather than kiss-kiss-bang-bang, this film provides a whole lot of talk-talk-bang-bang.

The struggle in reviewing films such as "Jason Bourne" or any other series in which the latest sequel doesn't deviate much from its previous entries is that there's not much more to say than what has already been said. Much like the series' other entries, the picture is well-made, occasionally exciting, often preposterous, well acted - although the great cast is mostly used to spout expository dialogue - and visually stylish.

Paul Greengrass - who has been involved with several of the "Bourne" sequels as well as the terrific "United 93" - is back on board as director and his trademark visual style for the series - jarring handheld camera work, for instance - at least keeps a sense of continuity for this franchise, if not exactly pushing it into any new territory - thematically, visually or otherwise. In other words, it's a decent enough summer sequel with a big name star, frantic pacing and some very well done set pieces. It's the cinematic equivalent of comfort food - if shootouts and car chases bring you comfort - and, on the whole, it does the job.

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