JASON BOURNE is an action movie without the smirking eagerness of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise and an espionage movie without the jolting charm of the Bond pictures. It is well-crafted from a technical standpoint, with director Paul Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd keeping things in a constant state of motion. And it doesn’t overreach, which is a point undermined by the fact that it doesn’t really reach at all. The dialogue isn’t so much comprised of meaning but instructions and expository observations, with characters telling the audience where so-and-so is and what so-and-so is going to do next and when so-and-so will arrive at such-and-such a place.
The most notable so-and-so is obviously the titular character, played by Matt Damon. The former superspy is in hiding, but his former Treadstone contact Nicky (Julia Stiles) tracks him down to reveal the findings of a hacker group. The activity has alerted the CIA, which in turn springs cybersecurity head Heather (Alicia Vikander) and the agency director (Tommy Lee Jones) into action to find Bourne. There’s also some business with the CEO of a social media giant (Riz Ahmed), who is fending off the CIA’s requests to use his service for surveillance purposes.
While JASON BOURNE is at least semi-topical with its concerns about privacy in the modern age, there’s little refinement or art to how the subject is approached. Positions are sketched out in black and white, even when something critical is revealed about Bourne’s past. All the while, the characters are stone-faced. Part of this could be read as commentary, with hints of how government intelligence agencies harvest machines incapable of emotion. But this is mostly a matter of design, with much of JASON BOURNE running at the same tempo with the same score and the same action apparatus.
Sometimes, Greengrass flirts with something better – even something lavish. The closing chase-and-fight between Bourne and Vincent Cassel’s Asset features a smash into a renowned Vegas casino. Before anything noteworthy happens amid the sea of slot machines and distressed gamblers, the hero and villain bail to a nondescript locale to hash it out. Lest you think JASON BOURNE features anything that borders on actual “fun,” Greengrass pulls back from the ledge and back into the office. Vikander’s range is unexploited as a result, while Jones scowls all over the wallpaper. As for Damon, it is nice to have his character back in the swing of things. It’s just too bad so-and-so is so damn dull.