The Bourne trilogy of espionage thrillers, including “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), established new standards for credible spy movies in the 21st century that even prompted the James Bond producers to follow suit with more plausible 007 escapades.  Once the “Bourne” trilogy concluded in 2007, Matt Damon felt no need to star in a fourth film since Bourne came full circle in “The Bourne Ultimatum.” When the spin-off saga “The Bourne Legacy” performed efficiently enough at the box office (a rumored “Legacy” sequel is pending), Damon and “Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum” director Paul Greengrass changed their minds about “Bourne.”  Initially, Greengrass didn’t want to revive the franchise out of fear that a fourth film might not surpass their previous “Bourne” outings.  Mind you, Bourne no longer suffers from amnesia, but he finds himself inexorably drawn back into the maze of intrigue when he discovers that his late father may have created the sinister CIA Treadstone program that deployed our hero as a contract assassin.  Sadly, the latest entry in the globe-trotting franchise, director Paul Greengrass’ “Jason Bourne” appears to have been Bourne of desperation.  Everything that distinguished the first three “Bourne” movies as memorable spy melodramas appears conspicuously absent from the derivative “Jason Bourne.”  Indeed, “Jason Bourne” qualifies as the least imaginative sequel.  Despite a mediocre screenplay co-written by Christopher Rouse and Greengrass, “Jason Bourne” boasts an agile as ever Matt Damon tangling with two tenacious dastards played with gusto by Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel.  Julia Stiles, who appeared in the first three “Bourne” epics, reprises her role as Nicky Parsons.  It should come as no surprise that she follows in the footsteps of Marie Kreutz.

When we meet Jason Bourne (Matt Damon of “The Martian”) again, he has been surviving off- the-grid, like Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher, and earning pocket change by slugging it out of brawny opponents in illegal bare-knuckled brawls, like Clint Eastwood did in “Every Which Way but Loose.”  Meantime, not only has ex-CIA agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles of “Save the Last Dance”) hacked into the Agency’s Langley, Virginia, computers, but she has also downloaded Treadstone files that Bourne will want to read.  Little does Nicky know it but a new CIA cyber-security wizard, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander of “Ex Machina”), has planted Malware in those files. This Malware will enable Heather to track down Nicky wherever she goes to access those files.  Nicky arranges to meet Bourne in Athens during an explosive riot.  Before she can get down to cases with Bourne, ruthless CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones of “No Country for Old Men”) dispatches a sharpshooting assassin, designated The Asset (Vince Cassel of “Ocean’s Twelve”), to terminate our hero with extreme prejudice.  This particular Asset had suffered unspeakably in the past because Bourne exposed another clandestine operation run by the CIA.  The Asset wound up in enemy hands, and the Agency spend two years in their efforts to rescue him.  One way or another, the vengeance-sworn Asset is determined to kill Bourne with extreme prejudice.  Heather Lee doesn’t think death is the best solution for Bourne.  Despite Dewey’s strenuous objections, Lee convinces CIA National Security Director Edwin Russell (Scott Shepherd of “Side Effects”) to bring Bourne back into the fold.  Predictably, Dewey plays along with Russell, but Dewey keeps the Asset on call.  Naturally, the Asset is itching for an opportunity to perforate Bourne. During its first hour, “Jason Bourne” globe-trots from Iceland to Greece to England and finally to Las Vegas, with Bourne pursuing Dewey and the Asset in pursuit of Bourne. Neither the wrongheaded villains nor our indestructible hero are prepared to call it quits.

The problem with “Jason Bourne” is its formulaic plot piles clichés atop standard-issue “Bourne” conventions.  Practically speaking, “Jason Bourne” recycles many of the best scenes from Damon’s earlier “Bourne” jaunts.  Bourne is less resourceful here because his CIA adversaries are such clueless cretins. If rank and file CIA agents are as imbecilic as they are in “Jason Bourne,” it’s a miracle terrorists don’t slice up America like a pizza.  No close-quarters combat scenes in “Jason Bourne” match the clash in “The Bourne Supremacy” where Bourne wielded a rolled-up magazine as a deadly weapon against a fellow Treadstone operative. Remember, it is only movie.  Nevertheless, Greengrass and Rouse don’t do much to make things singular. Most of what Greengrass and Rouse have scripted here occurred earlier in “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.” The death of the Bourne damsel in “Jason Bourne” resembles the demise of Marie in “The Bourne Supremacy.”  Inevitably, Bourne and his girlfriend flee from an assassin who has targeted our hero rather than the heroine.  Repeatedly, he misses the hero by a hair but kills the girl.  The assassination of one male character reminded me of the murder of the English journalist in “The Bourne Supremacy.”  The Athens riot is reminiscent of the Berlin protests in “The Bourne Supremacy.”  Any time that Bourne plunges into action, the CIA winds up monitoring his every move from Langley on a big-screen with scores of technicians tweaking the signals. Teams of assassins are assembled and sent to corner him, and he experiences few problems eliminating whatever threat that they pose to him.

Greengrass relies on his jittery trademark editing to generate anxiety about Bourne’s shenanigans.  Computer geeks will laugh at some of the computer errors that occur. Meantime, you cannot get comfortable watching a “Bourne” movie because the filmmakers bounce you around the globe while the villains are kneading their hands in fiendish collaboration about their next Ambush.  The best thing about the demolition derby chase through Las Vegas is the hulking SWAT Team van that the Asset uses to smash cars out of his way.  Tommy Lee Jones makes a formidable villain up until his last scene where he refuses to shoot first and ask questions later. The final standoff between Bourne and the Asset is grueling but rarely as interesting as previous Bourne brawls.  Movies are all about seeing superstars strutting their stuff.  Some of the antics that the characters indulge in defy common sense.  Jason Bourne is the CIA’s most sought-after man, but he neither dons a disguise nor keeps a low profile when he cavorts in public. Interestingly, Bourne’s male CIA superiors are as determined to kill him as his female CIA superiors are to keep him alive.  Despite all the bloodshed and treachery, “Jason Bourne” brings the franchise full circle so as to spawn several sequels.


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