Tuesday, August 2, 2016

In Theaters: JASON BOURNE (2016)

(US - 2016)

Directed by Paul Greengrass. Written by Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse. Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Ato Essandoh, Gregg Henry, Scott Shepherd, Vincenz Kiefer, Stephen Kunken. (PG-13, 123 mins)

After sitting out 2012's disappointing THE BOURNE LEGACY--the TOKYO DRIFT of the BOURNE franchise--star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return for the fifth entry, JASON BOURNE (they really should've called it BOURNE AGAIN). It's been nine years since THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, and the Damon-Greengrass duo basically stick to the formula, opting to not fix what isn't broken and, naturally, including a new closing credits remix of Moby's "Extreme Ways." Not participating is screenwriter Tony Gilroy, a key component to the success of the first three films who failed to find a spark when he was promoted to director in Greengrass' stead for LEGACY. Greengrass' hyper-kinetic, shaky-cam style is, for better or worse, so inextricably linked with the BOURNE franchise that it's easy to forget he wasn't involved with 2002's THE BOURNE IDENTITY and only came onboard when Doug Liman (SWINGERS, GO) wasn't invited back for 2004's THE BOURNE SUPREMACY after clashing with Universal on the first film. Gilroy's focus on exposition and dialogue turned LEGACY into a bit of a bore, and without his presence here, Greengrass has taken over scripting duties for the first time on a BOURNE film. It's telling that he shares credit with his usual editor and first-time screenwriter Christopher Rouse, who won an Oscar for his editing work on ULTIMATUM. With that in mind, the focus is on action, with many of the more intricate details of plot, characterization and motivation left fuzzy, probably because that just isn't their chief concern. Trotting all over the globe at a breakneck pace, JASON BOURNE keeps your attention and is a definite improvement over THE BOURNE LEGACY, whose existence it completely ignores, but there's no denying that the freshness is waning and that neither Damon nor Greengrass seem as inspired this time out.

CIA operative Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the agency's database from Iceland, stealing damning files on the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs that turned all-American David Webb into superagent Jason Bourne (Damon). Bourne is living off the grid in Greece, picking up pocket money in brutal street fights and still coming to terms with his past. Parsons' hack is traced by ambitious cybersecurity official Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who talks new CIA director Robert Dewey (a craggier-than-ever Tommy Lee Jones) into making her point in the trackdown of Parsons, who they're sure will lead them to Bourne. Of course she does, though Parsons is killed by Dewey's covert agent "The Asset" (Vincent Cassel), which sends Bourne all through Europe trying to get to the bottom of Parsons' claim that the death of his State Dept honcho father Richard Webb (Gregg Henry in newly-shot flashbacks) in a Libya car bombing in 1999 was actually a CIA hit disguised as a terrorist attack. He forms an unholy alliance with Lee, who works closely with Dewey but seems to have her own agenda. Dewey, meanwhile, wants to keep a lid on anything related to Bourne and is preoccupied with his own secret dealings with billionaire social media tech mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), who's been paid a huge amount of money for his work in a new agency project called Ironhand, an advanced surveillance program that will track the whereabouts and actions of all users of Kalloor's Facebook-like app Deep Dream.

There's some fleeting attempts at topicality with Kalloor's parallels to Mark Zuckerberg, and one of Dewey's flunkies (Ato Essandoh) gravely intoning that Parsons' hack is "worse than Snowden," but Greengrass isn't really concerned with the confusing plot, instead keeping a relentless forward momentum as Bourne goes from one action set piece to the next. This culminates in a ridiculous but nonetheless entertaining car vs. SWAT truck chase in Las Vegas that's more CANNONBALL RUN than BOURNE. Mainly, the bulk of the action is a more propulsive-than-most travelogue of Damon briskly walking through scenic European cities and train stations while looking over his shoulder, intercut with the obligatory scenes in a CIA crisis suite filled with rows of surveillance monitors on the walls, with a steely-eyed Lee demonstrating an almost Spidey Sense of where to spot Bourne in a crowd ("Stop...back up two seconds...pause...enhance the image...it's HIM!"). In the most apparent sign of the shift in writing focus, Damon has very little dialogue here, and Vikander doesn't have much to other than look really grim and serious, her Heather Lee coming across like the least fun person on the planet (she's essentially a young version of Joan Allen's Pamela Landy). Jones relies on a lot of his stoical Sam Gerard routine, periodically barking "Find him!" and stopping just short of ordering Cassel's "The Asset" on a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in the area. Damon's three previous BOURNE films were smartly-plotted thrillers with intense action sequences, while JASON BOURNE just dispenses with the notion of a story making much sense, but works as an over-the-top action movie, albeit one you've seen several times before. It's not so much a dumbing down as it is giving people what they want. To that extent, it's a good time, but certainly a step below the first three films, particularly the two Damon-Greengrass collaborations.

No comments:

Post a Comment