Starring: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by: Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Captain Phillips”)
Written by: Paul Greengrass (“United 93”) and Christopher Rouse (debut)
When we last saw Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) nine years ago, he had finally found himself. It turns out his real name was David Webb, and he was a good soldier who signed up for the Treadstone program run by the CIA that created brutal, badass, and brainwashed assassins. After spending three films on the run, dodging surveillance and special agents unleashed upon him from various corrupt men and women in computer-filled rooms across the globe, Bourne was free—so to speak. So much so that you could be forgiven for thinking his story was over. After all, Damon and director Paul Greengrass had seemingly hung things up and Universal had moved on, crafting the unsatisfying side-quel “The Bourne Legacy” with Jeremy Renner as a Bourne-adjacent character named Aaron Cross.
In my review of that film from 2012, I accused the studio of pulling “a ‘Teen Wolf Too'” and making “a movie where everyone knows who Jason Bourne is, but since he’s not around they just made the story about this other guy who’s just like him instead and called it ‘The Bourne Legacy.’” Eager to get the eternally-bland taste of Renner out of everyone’s mouth, Damon and Greengrass returned to retake the franchise, and the result is…well, the pretty bland “Jason Bourne.”
Bourne foil-turned-associate Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) opens the film hacking into the CIA to steal classified files for the movie’s proxy Edward Snowden (the real-life Snowden and the rise of social inform this universe more than the original trilogy’s post-Cold War paranoia). When she’s made by agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) figures Bourne can’t be far behind. An assassin with ties to Bourne (Vincent Cassel) is dispatched to kill the pair. When Bourne slips through their fingers and is put on the trail of his dead father, Lee and Dewey work to stop Bourne from exposing the agency’s secrets. You know…again.
The problem with “Jason Bourne” is that it never finds a sense of purpose—much like the character himself. The first three films in the series were about Bourne finding out how he became who he is now—and those questions were answered. Nearly a decade later, “Jason Bourne” asks “what about Bourne’s dad?” And really, the answer is about what you’d expect. Stir in yet another corrupt CIA official, a half-hearted stab at social media privacy, and some frankly dolt-ish faux consumer electronics gear, and you might wish Bourne had stayed in hiding instead of going through the motions one more time.