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"JASON BOURNE"
(2016) (Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A former government operative continues trying to solve the mystery of his past while dealing with an ambitious CIA cyber ops specialist and her boss, the CIA director, who either wants him captured or killed.
PLOT:
It's been years since former CIA operative and assassin Jason Bourne (MATT DAMON) left that government agency's top secret, intelligence program and he's been off the grid ever since, making a living by earning betting money from street fights. His former black ops contact, Nicky Parsons (JULIA STILES), however, has hacked into the CIA database and uncovered files regarding a number of other black ops programs, including ones about Jason's past and his now dead father. CIA cyber ops director Heather Lee (ALICIA VIKANDER) gets word of that breach and shuts it down before the download is completed, and manages to convince her boss, CIA director Robert Dewey (TOMMY LEE JONES), that she should be put in charge of finding and bringing in Jason.

Dewey, who has a covert deal with tech CEO Aaron Kalloor (RIZ AHMED) to use his company's data mining for intelligence gathering and national security agrees to Heather's proposal. But his real intentions are to use a Hitman (VINCENT CASSEL) to kill Jason and others who threaten to undermine the agency's work. From that point on, Jason tries to stay one step ahead of Heather, Dewey and the contract killer who are all figuratively and literally gunning for him.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Back in the old days before the "series of tubes" known as the Internet came to be, the vast majority of Americans living in near complete anonymity. Sure, family and friends knew about some aspects of your behavior, preferences and such, but unless you were famous, little was known about you outside of those circles.

In fact, for any suspicious characters to get on the radar, so to speak, it was up to law enforcement officials and government spies to follow, observe and dig through your belongings when you werenít looking.

Nowadays, between the Patriot Act (that allows the government to spy on its citizens in the name of national security), publically traded companies like Amazon and Google (who know all of your online behavior and thus can extrapolate an awful lot about you), and the work of hackers who enjoy releasing previously private emails and such, thereís pretty much no privacy.

All of which means a film like "Jason Bourne" should come off as quite timely. In it, info on shady, so-called black op programs related to national security and such is uncovered by a disgruntled operative (Julia Stiles) who hacks into the CIA computer system, only to have its head of cyber ops (Alicia Vikander) remotely shut that down before the download is complete.

Beyond the potential embarrassment that could create for the CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones), some of that hacked info pertains to our title character (Matt Damon) whoís been a thorn in the side of the agency ever since waking up and realizing, much to his surprise, that he was some sort of super agent with a special set of skills (a.k.a. a knack for killing the bad guys).

Bourneís been off the grid for some time, and Director Dewey doesnít want him resurfacing and causing trouble, so using Heather Leeís cyber tracing skills, he sends a hitman only known as "The Asset" (Vincent Cassel) to dispense with the rogue agent. Of course, anyone whoís seen 2002ís "The Bourne Identity," 2004ís "The Bourne Supremacy" or 2007ís "The Bourne Ultimatum" knows thatís easier said than done.

And for those familiar with the film series based on Robert Ludlumís literary character -- that also includes a brief interlude of Jeremy Renner appearing in the lone Damon-less entry "The Bourne Legacy" -- theyíll obviously realize theyíre in store for some wild action sequences and hard-hitting fight scenes.

Had this been the first ever cinematic entry in the series, this might have been something to behold. Obviously, itís not, and even with the director of parts two and three -- Paul Greengrass -- back at the helm, this doesnít feel like much more than the same old, same old.

And the same holds true for the script by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse (who also serves as the filmís editor) that not only naturally touches on plot elements from the previous films, but also the distrust, displeasure and fear of too many strangers knowing too much about all of us. Weíve seen all of that -- and the government forces and officials that arenít above breaking the law to protect everyone -- before in other films, and thus nothing about this feels fresh.

Granted, thatís asking a lot for the fifth entry in any film series. And to be fair, itís not bad, as some of the action scenes -- shot by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd -- are something to behold, even if I wish someone would buy Greengrass and his crew Steadicams for their birthdays to allow for some shake-free footage.

Damon is once again up to the task physically, but little to nothing has been added to his character thatís still trying to probe and figure out his past. Cassel is likewise physically impressive as the hitman but similarly isnít much more than a one-dimensional character. Jones canít do a great deal with his steely government official but itís not that hard to buy into his character believing what he believes and doing what he does.

Far more intriguing is Vikander in her role who at least brings some grayness to her cyber ops specialist persona. With a better script and written characterizations, the talented actress could have really turned this into a fascinating study of such an ambitious and talented young woman. Nonetheless, sheís still the most interesting part of the film.

In the end, if you like decently staged and executed action scenes, youíll probably find this to your liking. But if youíre looking for something that digs down deeper into the characters and themes at play, you might feel shortchanged. Of course, you could always ask Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin or the folks at the Dept. of Justice who probably know far more than the filmmakers do about all of that. "Jason Bourne" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed July 26, 2016 / Posted July 29, 2016


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