By Susan JAMES
It’s strange that the faster the action gets on the screen the slower the story seems to move in writer/director Paul Greengrass’ third exploration of the world of Jason Bourne. It’s not just that we’ve seen soulless killers and endless car chases before – far more memorably filmed in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise – it’s that the killings and the chases don’t seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things. Sherlock Holmes has memorably said that, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” In Jason Bourne’s new on-screen adventure, there is much that is improbable, a great deal that is impossible and not very much that is true.
When the story begins, an aging and defeated Bourne (Matt Damon) is making a living slugging it out in impromptu ultimate fights in obscure corners of Europe. He lives in a squat and is haunted by nightmares of his past as an amnesiac assassin and truculent anti-hero. Former friend and ex-CIA cohort Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) has morphed into a female Edward Snowden and, in her quest to steal secrets from CIA black ops computers, has come across a file on Bourne’s father. Certain that Bourne would want to see it, she manages to contact him and they meet for the handover in the midst of a riot in Athens.
This is where the impossible kicks in. CIA tech operative Heather Lee (a completely wasted Alicia Vikander) has managed to insert malware into the files Nicky has passed off to Bourne. When he opens the file, Langley knows immediately where he is and what he’s doing. Apparently, and I doubt if any but conspiracy theorists know this, the CIA through the use of satellite imagery, CCTV cameras and sheer luck can track anyone anywhere on earth in an instant. And that includes indoors and out. Not only that but they have on-the-spot assets ready to roll in that same instant. Lee’s evil superior, CIA director Robert Dewey (a very tired looking Tommy Lee Jones) wants Bourne taken out before he can learn the secret of his father’s death. For the job he taps his chief asset (Vincent Cassel), who has a long-standing personal grudge against Bourne.
From here it’s the usual game of cat and mouse, crashing cars and falling bodies. Given that this is a franchise there is not much question that Bourne will survive what the best and brightest can throw at him. But this is a degraded Bourne, far less interesting than his earlier incarnations. In the past this guy was clever enough to outwit the most powerful intelligence agency of the most powerful nation on earth. But here the search for Bourne’s father’s fate just isn’t a strong enough hook to hang a movie on. The lack of any real story leaves the car chases and the anonymous dead bodies strangely irrelevant. The frequent betrayals the movie tracks seem like minor plot points rather than OMG moments.
But if you like car chases and random kills and don’t need much of a story to connect them then this Bourne is for you. One warning: If you are susceptible to motion sickness, take a Dramamine before you go because much of film is shot with hand-held cameras in extreme close-ups. Dizziness may occur.
See you at the movies!