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Front Page - Friday, August 5, 2016

‘Bourne’ treads familiar ground

The Critic's Corner movie review

David Laprad

In “Jason Bourne,” former CIA assassin Bourne remains on the run from the agency that trained him to be a deadly weapon as he tries to uncover the truth about his past.

That might sound familiar to you. It did to me. Wasn’t that the plot synopsis of the first three films? Moreover, didn’t the third film resolve the Bourne storyline? Didn’t Bourne learn the truth about his past and expose Operation Blackbriar?

I thought about complaining. How can Bourne still be on the lamb? Why isn’t he waking up in a nice home, sipping a steaming cup of coffee as he looks across a well-manicured lawn, and then putting on a pressed shirt and tie and driving to his job as a consultant?

Because that wouldn’t be Bourne. Bourne is about action, intrigue, and living on the edge. Grousing about him still being on the run ten years after the last film would be like complaining that Indiana Jones has to set off on another quest to find another artifact. It’s who he is.

So I decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. And, well, meh.

There’s nothing grievously wrong with the storyline. It’s actually easier to follow than some of the earlier films. And if you’re going to stretch this series past its logical conclusion, then the plot is a decent follow-up to the previous movies. There’s a big secret for Bourne to uncover and a new CIA director with an evil plan, and everyone either wants to kill Bourne because of what he knows or save him because he looks like Matt Damon.

Speaking of Damon, I don’t have much to say about the actor, who does his Bourne shtick as well as he ever has. He spends most of the movie looking intense and walking quickly, and when a situation calls for fisticuffs, he unleashes unholy hell. I didn’t count Damon’s lines, but he can’t have more than a couple dozen, most of which are related to the heat of the moment, so if you’re hoping for a revelatory experience that peels off new layers of a complex man, dial down your expectations.

It seems as though director Paul Greengrass dialed back the annoying aspects of his style for this new entry in the Bourne franchise. His previous films in the series were a nauseating mess of shaky camerawork and close-ups. Although Greengrass employed a handheld approach for “Jason Bourne,” I could generally see what was going on, and he largely gave his characters a little more breathing room on the screen. 

Unfortunately, his cuts are still too quick during the action scenes (it’s almost as if he had a sticky note taped to the monitor in his editing bay that read, “Shots should last no longer than two seconds”) and his framing is still frustratingly uncinematic. When paired with the perpetually thumping and thoroughly generic synthesizer soundtrack, “Bourne” has the look and feel of an expensive CBS procedural.

Granted, there are a few great-looking stunts. This is especially true during a car chase that winds up mowing through a casino. But again, the edits are too fast to allow our eyes to settle on and enjoy the mayhem.

Maybe I’m missing the point. I thought “Jason Bourne” was formulaic and, at times, boring. But a pair of Bourne fans told me they enjoyed the film, with one saying, “It’s just like the others. And it’s terrific.” Another said he enjoyed it more than “Star Trek Beyond,” which I praised last week. So we might have a film that will appeal to fans but not draw in those who either didn’t care for the earlier movies or have always been on the fence. 

That makes sense, since Greengrass and Damon have essentially made the same movie again. 

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.