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“Jason Bourne” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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     For the fifth installment of the late, great Robert Ludlum’s action/espionage mega-series (and the fourth outing for star Matt Damon), we get more of the same as the title character is lured out of hiding once again. Only this time he’ll be dealing with a different corrupt C.I.A. head, a different high-ranking female willing to help, and a different expert hitman intent on making sure the long-dislocated “Treadstone” operative disappears permanently. Picking up after the events of “The Bourne Ultimatum” (let’s just forget that we had the non-canonical “Bourne Legacy” with Jeremy Renner in between), helpful agent-gone-rogue Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) surfaces to ferret hacked information to Bourne. As a result, the elite amnesiac assassin that once went by the name of David Webb painstakingly learns how his father was murdered trying to keep his son from the unsparing life of a top-secret operative. Oh, and of course he’s still number one on the C.I.A.’s hit list!

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     As if their villainous director (aren’t they all?) Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) doesn’t have enough on his plate with a reemerging Jason Bourne who wants answers, he also happens to be locked in a battle of wills with tech genius Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed of “Nightcrawler”) who is set to unveil an app that will protect the populace from the prying eyes of the government. That’s right, you guessed it. Add another name to Dewey’s list! With the help of deputy director Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), Bourne just may find the answers he’s searching for as he attempts to piece together another chapter in his past while looking to prevent Dewey and his personal “Asset” (Vincent Cassel) from murdering the app developer at a Las Vegas trade show!

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    It’s been fourteen years since Matt Damon first appeared as Jason Bourne, a role that has become rather synonymous with his name. For all intents and purposes, it’s his James Bond and the versatile actor shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. He’s just as believable portraying a skilled Black Op at the age of 45, as he was at 32. However, I can’t help but feel that his star is firmly above the material that he’ll continue to get as long as he agrees to appear in a series that has seen much better days. That’s not to say that the film wasn’t entertaining in its own right, a highlight of which depicted a car chase/demolition derby down the Vegas strip that frankly leaves every other movie’s obligatory chase scene in their respective dust. Unfortunately, the sheer ridiculousness of the fact that no one is gravely injured after the events in said chase was a great cause of unintentional laughter in the theater where I sat.

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     However, I must applaud the casting of Vincent Cassel as “the Asset,” the latest in a long succession of hitmen who are unleashed in every film. Cassel undeniably brings a coolness to the role, a quality that was starkly missing in previous films that featured deadpan characterizations from the likes of a Clive Owen, Karl Urban or Edgar Ramirez. I’ve always enjoyed Cassel’s proclivity towards superior motion picture villainy, going back to Jennifer Aniston’s deadly boyfriend/partner-in-crime from “Derailed” and, of course, the delightfully sinister ballet teacher in “Black Swan.” Rising star Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl,” “Ex Machina”) makes her series debut as the requisite female CIA second-in-command (or Joan Allen’s replacement!), and she gives a refreshingly poised performance. Every time I see this wonderful actress, I just can’t help but think that any production she is involved in benefits greatly from her presence.

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     Paul Greengrass returns to direct his third consecutive installment in the series (once again, we’re not counting “The Bourne Legacy”) and it’s a proper fit…if you want the same exact movie each and every time. Sure, the locales, some situations and even most of the names have changed since the character of Jason Bourne first broke onto the screen in 2002. But, make no mistake, this is yet another retread of every sequel that has followed “The Bourne Identity.” The formulaic qualities of this series are doing the recycled plots no favors and the only film that even showed a little bit of originality since the first one was the one that Matt Damon chose not to appear in. After five films it has become well-apparent that Ludlum’s creation needs to take a permanent vacation and rest his weary bones at some remote corner of the world where neither the C.I.A. or the brass at Universal Pictures can get to him, because I believe the moviegoing public has had about enough.

** (two out of four stars)

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