Combustible Celluloid
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With: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, Bill Camp, Vinzenz Kiefer, Stephen Kunken, Gregg Henry
Written by: Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse, based on characters created by Robert Ludlum
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language
Running Time: 123
Date: 07/29/2016

Jason Bourne (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

'Bourne' Losers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Departing from the novels originated by Robert Ludlum, the fifth Jason Bourne movie, Jason Bourne, opens Friday in Bay Area theaters and begins with the nugget of a good idea.

Bourne's colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) discovers a set of CIA Black Ops files, which includes information that goes back to Bourne's father, as well as the establishment of a new super-soldier program.

This gives Bourne something to do, which is great, but what, exactly? Does he want revenge? Does he want to shut down the new program?

It's not clear, because the hero (Matt Damon) spends the entire film running around, barely speaking, and ducking in and out of crowds. Occasionally he calls someone, threatens someone, or looks something up on a computer.

In the earlier trio of films — the fourth in the series was the Jeremy Renner departure, The Bourne Legacy (2012) — Damon was used well, appearing as if he were thinking on his feet, calculating his next move. Now his motivations are clouded, with nothing to root for.

Jason Bourne also brings on board Tommy Lee Jones, as CIA Director Robert Dewey, who is looking for Bourne. Usually Jones is excellent at the "relentless pursuer" role; he won an Oscar for it in The Fugitive (1993). But here, he can barely disguise his complete disinterest.

Likewise, recent Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander has been cast as a CIA operative interested in bringing Bourne back to the fold, but she's just as muddled; she spends most of her time trying to look as serious as possible.

Perhaps worst of all is Oscar-nominated filmmaker Paul Greengrass, who returns to the Bourne series for the third time.

Greengrass is well-known as a camera-shaker, but normally, and especially on the series' best entry, The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), he spends time establishing the physical space of a location. This way, viewers can get their bearings, even in complete chaos.

In this movie however, the action scenes are usually chases, and they constantly barrel ahead into unknown territory. One of the chases is set among an uprising in Athens, Greece, with police and protestors everywhere, and the camerawork is a complete tangle.

It's impossible to know where anything is or to decipher any details. It's as if Greengrass, too, were simply past caring.

Actually, the only one who actually seemed to care is Tony Gilroy, who wrote or co-wrote all four previous movies (and directed the fourth); he didn't even show up for this dud. Now that was a smart move.

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