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Is Matt Damon a Natural “Bourne” Killer?

July 26, 2016

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I’ve never been a huge fan of Matt Damon’s Bourne franchise, yet I’ve seen all four of the previous films, including 2012’s The Bourne Legacy, when he was not-too-ably replaced by Jeremy Renner. So I went into Jason Bourne — which marks Damon’s return to the series, along with Paul Greengrass, who directed the superior second and third installments —with modest expectations. And they were met… eventually.

The first hour of Jason Bourne (which runs just over two hours) is slow. There’s a lot of running, and people typing on computers. Run a little, type a little, run a little, type a little, run a lot, type a little more. Damon’s titular rogue CIA agent has rediscovered his true identity before he was brainwashed and turned into a professional killer, but he’s trying to figure out who murdered his father long ago during an alleged terrorist attack in Beirut. The CIA, via evil director Tommy Lee Jones and his seemingly sympathetic-to-Bourne protegee, played by Alicia Vikander, are trying to track him down and bring him  in from the proverbial cold (or maybe just put him on ice)

The action jumps around a lot between countries—England, Iceland, the Balkans (where Jason is inexplicably earning his living as a bare-knuckle boxer as the film opens)—before it finally settles in Las Vegas, of all places. And that’s where the fun begins. It’s the site of a tech convention where Jones (who looks more like a Shar-Pei with each passing year) is set to share a panel with a social-media magnate (Riz Ahmed from HBO’s excellent The Night Of) who might blow the lid off a secret CIA surveillance program.

Much mayhem ensues as Damon’s Bourne is pursued by the CIA’s top assassin (Vincent Cassel), and there’s an unfortunate echo of recent real-life events in Nice as the French actor wreaks havoc in an armored truck among crowds on the Strip, plowing into the Riviera casino. But Greengrass knows how to direct action—his hand-to-hand combat scenes are cut so quickly, the editing feels like its own act of violence. There’s relatively little gunplay, which may be no surprise considering Damon’s controversial remarks in favor of gun control.

There’s also relatively little character development, but one doesn’t go to a Bourne movie for the dialogue. And in a summer when females’ suitability as action heroes (or at least Ghostbusters) has been heatedly debated, Vikander’s character is a refreshing revelation. She’s not a sex object—she never even lets her hair down from the clip that holds it—and she’s just as much of a badass as the boys. The Bourne series has always been like a stripped-down version of 007, and she fits right in. She’s no Bond girl. She’s a Bourne woman.

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