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Bourne There, Done That

There are many things to say about the Bourne series - namely they were exciting and thrilling to watch. But going a bit deeper than just the two hours of intense fight scenes, betrayal and hidden, ugly truths behind the past of our amnesiac-riddled protagonist, the series (more so Supremacy and Ultimatum when Paul Greengrass took over the reigns from Doug Liman) is a product of its time and place with the War on Terrorism seemingly never-ending, headlines and reports of the U.S. Government engaging in torturing enemy combatants under the guise of protecting American lives and collecting intel, and unchecked powers that have been granted after the attacks in New York and the nation's capitol. The character of Jason Bourne is perhaps an apt metaphor of our mindset at the time - unsure and never fully trusting the powers-that-be. But most of all, the one thing we could never say about the series is this: it was never boring and uninteresting.

Jason Bourne, the fifth installment in the series, is, sadly, just that. Years after the events in Ultimatum, Bourne (once again played by Matt Damon) has gone off the grid in order to avoid detection by the CIA and the shadow organization, Project Treadstone, which created him. His exile is short-lived once Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA's mainframe to leak a new black ops program, Iron Hand, and becomes the target of both the CIA and its creator, Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). From Greece to Berlin to Laas Vegas, Bourne must stay one step ahead of an agency that still wants him dead, a tenacious young cyber obs expert, Heather Lee (newly minted Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander) and a former Brackbriar assassin (Vincent Cassell) with an ax to grind against Bourne in order to find out the connection between Iron Hand and the death of Richard Webb, Jason's father. Sounds like an intriguing, even exciting plot, right?

Think again. The whole plot just feels like Greengrass and his screenwriter, Christopher Rouse (who also serves as film editor) are rehashing the same beats that were done before in Supremacy, Ultimatum and even in The Bourne Legacy. Substitute Iron Hand for Treadstone; Jason trying to piece together the mystery surrounding his father's death for him to recollect is memories before he went rouge thought the first three movies; Dewey's justification for invading privacy for protecting his country for Noah Volson getting the green light to engage in torture and rendition in Ultimatium; Heather Lee as the agent who sees through the BS for Pamela Landy; and Cassell as the mindless assassin who's sent to silence Bourne before the CIA's dirty secrets become public knowledge; and what you have is basically the same song and dance we've seen countless times over the span of three movies and one spin-off.

Which isn't to say there aren't any redeemable aspects to Jason Bourne, because there are. As per usual, the action scenes and fight choreography are top notch; in particular, the Greek parliament riot sequence and the car chase in Vegas call to mind one of the reasons why we loved the series in the first place: the shot in real time camerawork and use of practical stunt work, as opposed to over reliance on computer-generated effects. Vikander gives a solid performance as Heather Lee, and it's always fun to see Tommy Lee Jones playing a bastard who wraps himself in the stars & stripes, but, as I stated before, all of this feels like recycled material from previous installments of the franchise. Sure, this one brings up issues of cyber-terrorism, hacktivism, and the thin line between protecting the homeland and our rights to privacy, but said issues feel like they are taking a backseat to the action. In the end, Jason Bourne ends up where X-Men: Apocalypse was in May: seeing the same beats from other installments and being reminded that they were done better the first time round.

** stars out of ****

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