Fourteen years ago, Paul Greengrass, a young English documentarian working for British television, got the chance to direct Bloody Sunday, a fictionalized version of the 1972 riot in Northern Ireland that pitted Irish Catholic protestors against members of the British army. On the strength of that terrifyingly realistic portrayal of mob violence, Greengrass was hired to direct a sequel to Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Inheritance, (2002) which featured Matt Damon as a bewildered spy hunted by his own superiors. Greengrass and Damon joined forces on both The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Inheritance (2007), the cleverest attempt in the series to explain both the lethal capacities and moral ambiguity of its enigmatic hero.
In 2012, director Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the first three Bourne films, directed Jeremy Renner in The Bourne Legacy, an extremely weak attempt to equal the vitality of its predecessors. And now Greenglass & Damon have partnered once again to bring audiences Jason Bourne, the latest entry in this highly successful franchise. Wielding his trademark hand-held cameras, Greengrass hurls Damon, villains Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel and a mysteriously-cast Alicia Vikander, (The Danish Girl) into 2+ hours of relentlessly accelerating physical/mechanical mayhem.
Jason’s been recruited by group of Julian Assange wannabes to help expose a series of C.I.A. black operations that may hold clues about Bourne’s initial recruitment by the government into his lethal craft.
After opening with a compelling demonstration of high-tech global hacking, Bourne moves to Athens where Greengrass stages a dazzlingly-filmed riot which introduces “Asset”, (Vincent Cassel) a C.I.A. sniper tasked by Tommy Lee Jones with the responsibility of eliminating Bourne at any cost. After Asset’s initial failure, things settle down to a game of global ambush attempts culminating in a Las Vegas shoot out and demolition derby where Bourne once again literally smashes to a victory over his adversaries which leaves him evermore isolated .
There’s no denying the director’s kinetic energy and his visual grasp of telling detail in the midst of chaotic action. Tommy Lee Jones plays a mean old bastard with the best of them and Cassel is appropriately venomous with a minimum amount of dialogue. But despite Damon’s continued ability to exude his patented combination of probity and brutal physical efficiency, Bourne fails to add much to the intriguing mystery of his background that hasn’t already been effectively detailed in the earlier films. Reduced to punching harder, driving more outrageously and maintaining his phenomenal rectitude, Damon’s battered hero just doesn’t appear to have much left to offer his audience and Greengrass doesn’t help matters by piling increasing levels of chaos into his final reel. Yet given its early box office results and Bourne’s sly exit as the credits roll, there may yet be more life left in this celluloid loner with lightening-fast fists and the uncanny ability to one-up the self-assured villains who believe they have him all figured out…
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