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'Jason Bourne' fails to justify its existence


August 09, 2016

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    “I remember everything” — a revelatory phrase that ends up meaning less than it should when our titular hero says it at the beginning of Jason Bourne. It’s been nearly a decade since Matt Damon made an onscreen appearance as the amnesiac assassin; however, what was once an intriguing cipher — full of vulnerability and internal strife — is now a caricature burdened with a convoluted backstory fueled by daddy issues. For a man who now remembers everything, Bourne is blander than ever before.
    The world-weary Bourne is brought back into the fray when former CIA employee Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, the only other returning character), enlists his help to shed light on yet another government black ops program. Their adversaries include the current corrupt CIA director Robert Dewey (a grumpy Tommy Lee Jones), a super-assassin with a personal grudge (an underutilized Vincent Cassel) and ambitious government ladder-climber Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).
    Although we’ve seen the corrupt federal official and the opposing superspy on multiple occasions beforehand, Vikander’s morally ambiguous Heather Lee is the first to offer something new and interesting to the series. Her shifting loyalties and eye for director Dewey’s position creates an interesting interoffice struggle between the two that’s occasionally more captivating than the Bourne antics.
    Replacing character and plot for topicality, the geopolitical spy thriller tackles the tug-of-war issue between the safety mass surveillance offers and the right for individual privacy — packaged with dated references to Snowden, a Mark Zuckerberg-esque public figure (Riz Ahmed) and a story overstuffed with headshaking contrivances.
    Returning with Damon is director Paul Greengrass, whose famous fast-editing and shaky-cam style in The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum conveyed a frantic urgency to the plot and its characters. Sadly, they were unable to bring back screenwriter Troy Gilroy, who was involved with all four of the previous films. Jason Bourne might still contain the exciting fever-rush of rapid edits and kinetic cuts, but it lacks a solid story to tether it all together.   
    That’s not to say that the movie is without its merits. Jason Bourne delivers all the signature set-pieces the franchise is known for: cat-and-mouse pursuits in European cities, brutal brawls with government assassins ending with a MacGyver improvisation, and a third act car chase resulting in widespread wreckage. What was once considered innovative, is now a diminishing return for the formulaic franchise, but it’s still good fun to watch.
    These elaborate, action-packed splendors definitely help in subsiding your disinterest from the overstretched plot and thin characters. The first half contains a riveting motorcycle escape amidst violent, political riots in Athens, Greece. The globetrotting affair finally concludes with a bombastic sequence of vehicular carnage on the roads of Las Vegas, leaving viewers in awe of the spectacle, but likely conflicted on whether it alone was worth the price of admission.  
    Bourne might have regained his memories, but it won’t be surprising, if months from now, audiences will have trouble recalling this forgettable addition to the franchise.

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