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The Bourne Identity is a noteworthy action film because of how it upends the stereotypes of a traditional spy hero. Instead of a collected, world-weary cynic, Jason Bourne is a terrified innocent who tilts toward heroism through circumstances beyond his control. The first two sequels – Ultimatum and Supremacy – depart from Bourne’s innocence and instead make him into a competent, vengeful man driven by his need for the truth. Jason Bourne is the franchise’s latest sequel, and director Paul Greengrass quashes anything human or likable about his hero, opting instead for a stoic bulldozer of destruction. Chaos is no substitute for intrigue.

When we last left Bourne (Matt Damon), he was presumed dead after jumping from a skyscraper into the East River. That was nearly ten years ago, and now he has a humble, respectable living as an underground prize fighter. Bourne has no purpose, but he is not looking for trouble, either, at least until his former associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) uncovers confidential documents about his past. She uncovers them by hacking into the CIA – one analyst declares “This could be worse than Snowden.” Now he faces scrutiny from CIA director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), his underling Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), and all the surveillance/assassins at their disposal. Jason Bourne settles into a comfortable series of breaks-ins, escapes, fights, and chases. It culminates with Bourne confronting his former superiors, as it must, and we learn about a nefarious, sophisticated CIA program along the way.

No action plot withstands much scrutiny, especially the globe-trotting kind, and yet there are some details in Jason Bourne that are irresistibly hilarious. Why, for example, does Parsons hack into the CIA, knowing that it would create deadly problems for both her and Bourne? After all this time and collateral damage, why does the CIA still think that “bringing him in” is a viable option? There are no answers to these questions beyond “the movie requires it,” and yet they are fun to think about since the film is not involving enough in an immediate way.

What’s also embarrassing is how the screenplay by Greengrass and Christopher Rouse includes clichés that have been around since before the first Bourne film. Lee shouts “ENHANCE” when she sees a blurry photograph, as if she hasn’t learned anything from CSI reruns (Vikander is incredibly talented, and yet she speaks here with an American accent that’s bizarre to the point of distraction). Issues like this always plagued the franchise, but Damon’s performance was always the solution to them. In Jason Bourne, however, he is given little to do beyond what is required of a B-level action hero. Damon has few lines in this film, and the CIA operatives do not exactly pick up the slack. Tommy Lee Jones used to approach these roles with zeal – he was a great villain in Under Siege – and here he is little more than a half-asleep nihilist.

The action does not fare much better, either, since Greengrass cannot shake the techniques he helped bring into the mainstream. Greengrass legitimized “chaos cinema,” an approach to camera placement and editing that values frenzied disarray above all else. The camera in Jason Bourne is impatient, zooming in on seemingly random objects, so that it is unclear who is being pursued, hit, and shot. That said, there are some brief, intense scenes with The Asset (Vincent Cassel), a dispassionate assassin who has good reason for his beef with Bourne. The Asset kills lots of people, often in cold blood, and yet Bourne also has a disregard for civilian safety. They both are dangerous participants in a corrupt espionage system, and Greengrass’ attempt to turn The Asset into the antagonist does not shake that Bourne is guiltier of far worse.

Jason Bourne ends with a car chase along the Las Vegas Strip – the most brazenly public thing Bourne has participated in – and the orgy of twisted chrome has more in common with Fast and Furious than anything else. There is a sub-plot to Jason Bourne, one that involves a tech magnate’s collusion with the CIA and what it means for the post-smartphone age. It is little more than afterthought, an attempt to justify the nine year break between sequels (in terms of technology, it’s been a lifetime). There is no paranoia here, since the big revelation is not shocking to a group that happily foregoes privacy in favor of social networks and Pokémon Go. I keep returning to the simplicity of the first film, and the everyman approach to its premise. In The Bourne Identity, there was a terrifically tense chase that involved Damon and Clive Owen in the French countryside. Clarity was its strong suit. Greengrass must look upon it with disdain, since he opts for a hero who endangers hundreds just because his old buddy committed treason, for reasons he never questions. God, this movie is just so stupid.

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