Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jason Bourne

In case you're wondering whether to bother with JASON BOURNE, the rather unimaginatively titled new fifth (including the Jeremy Renner movie in between) entry in the Robert Ludlum adaptations, consider what unfolds in its two hours:

1. Lengthy sequences of CIA employees in a control room tracking Bourne (Matt Damon, resuming the role) all over Europe.  Several call out his coordinates while their superiors, cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) grunt less than vague orders not to lose him.

2. Shots of Bourne quickly shuffling down streets, through crowds (even a riot this time) never once breaking a smile.

3. Characters saying "This ends TONIGHT!" or "This ends NOW!" or some variation.  Sadly, no one utters "Failure is not an option!" or the old stand-by, "I'm too old for this shit!"

4. Fisticuffs shot in extreme close-up with an ASL (Average Shot Length) of about three milliseconds.  Which one threw that punch, anyway?

5. Suspense at the airport as customs agents run Bourne's umpteenth ersatz passport.

6. Julia Stiles, also never smiling (does anyone in these movies?), reprising her role as Nicky Parsons and unwisely meeting Bourne in a public place.

7. Pulse pounding car chases that leave such a wake of destruction if you were to pan back and survey the wreckage, surely there would be multiple deaths.  The final chase between Bourne and "The Asset" (Vincent Cassel), an old nemesis, actually goes for broke and has the latter's stolen Police Humvee just plowing through lanes of vehicles, sending them flying every which way.  It's a moment that FAST AND FURIOUS fans will eat up.

And so on.  There is also a flashback involving Bourne's father that is shown in a blur but eventually his assassin's face will be revealed after the fourth or fifth repetition.  The screenplay is filled with all these familiar elements in what is an unabashed effort to please longtime fans.  But the story itself may leave them and many others wanting, even as it shoehorns in a Zuckerberg/Snowden type character who runs a social media company that the CIA may be planning to use for total surveillance of our great country.  Timely, but dealt with superficially.

Bourne learned his identity a decade ago and is reduced to participating in illegal bare knuckle brawls as he stays off the grid.  Is it anticlimactic to bring him out of the shadows? Damon himself said any attempt to rehash the story was fruitless, that "the story had been told" but nonetheless he and director/writer Paul Greengrass return to the well.  And while I snarkily laundry listed all the BOURNE cliches, I had a whale of a good time with this latest entry. This is a very exciting flick!  The breakneck pace prevented any serious considerations of the plot or Vikander's so-so performance.  Tommy Lee Jones' pock marked face is just right for the role of a weary, crooked CIA Chief, and his presence adds to the old school charm.

Depends what you're looking for, I guess.  While JASON BOURNE isn't entirely brain neutral entertainment, I think if you approach it that way you'll yield maximum enjoyment.  You could always go watch TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY for some balance.

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