FILM REVIEW – JASON BOURNE. With Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles. Written by Paul Greengrass & Christopher Rouse. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language. 123 minutes.
Paul Greengrass, who directed (and co-wrote with Christopher Rouse) JASON BOURNE, is a magician. He has taken what is essentially a Road Runner cartoon and turned it into riveting entertainment. Wile E. Coyote only had to chase the Road Runner a few minutes at a time for each cartoon. Greengrass has C.I.A. Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) chase Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) for nearly two hours, and doesn’t skip a beat.
For those who have somehow missed the earlier entries (and they’re not really necessary to see prior to this), Jason Bourne is an international spy and assassin for our side who has come to learn he’s been programmed. It’s not his real name or identity, and now that he know who he really is–or was–he wants to find out what happened to him. It involves top secret C.I.A. operations and Bourne’s late father. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a former operative sympathetic to Bourne, sets him on that path.
The movie essentially consists of a series of breathtaking chases, each one topping the last. In Athens, Bourne is set to meet Parsons while a figure known only as the “Asset” (Vincent Cassel) is working to take them both out. This occurs in the midst of a political demonstration that turns into a riot. This sequence is followed by an attempt to trap him in Berlin and then a chase on foot in London where an ambitious CIA agent named Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) wants to bring Bourne in only to learn that her colleagues have a different agenda.
All this leads to the bravura cat-and-mouse game in Las Vegas which involves showdowns, betrayals, and a SWAT truck smashing its way through traffic. One would think that after more than a century of cinematic car chases we would have seen it all, but Greengrass and company have a few tricks up their sleeves. No one will be stepping out into the lobby out of boredom.
This isn’t exactly highbrow entertainment, but we get enough just enough motivation so that this top-notch cast can sink their teeth into the material. Bourne’s motivation is obvious, but watch the scenes between Dewey and Lee and notice how much of it is about what they’re not saying to each other. Jones is an old hand at this, but it’s a pleasure to see that Vikander (“Ex Machina,” “The Danish Girl”) is an actor who will continue to command our attention.
“Jason Bourne” leaves the door open for a sequel, even though they have long left behind the Robert Ludlum books that inspired them. Like those Road Runner cartoons, we don’t really go to the “Bourne” movies for their plots. Suffice to say, Bourne will continue to be troubled by the secrets in his past which he will chase after while being chased. However, with Damon in the lead and Greengrass behind the camera, no doubt we’ll be coming back for more.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.