You know his name. You know his moves. You even know he can ride a motorcycle up and down ancient city steps, because we’ve seen him do it before. It’s not just a sense of déjà vu that makes the newest Bourne movie a yawn, but it doesn’t help.
Director Paul Greengrass’ return to the series is another problem, at least for me. Greengrass is a highly talented filmmaker, but in his previous Bourne movies he sought new ways to heighten the excitement of his action scenes to a point of kinetic absurdity. Now, as in his last effort (2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum) he adopts what I call a “chaos-cam” approach. You don’t actually see anything happen: every blow, every crash, every bullet hit is inferred in the midst of frenzied editing. This kind of muddle isn’t exhilarating in my book.
What’s worse, Greengrass seems to believe that the only way to frame an actor’s face is in macro-closeup form, so that we can count their pores. A woman as young and beautiful as Alicia Vikander is about the only one who can withstand such scrutiny here. I am now keenly aware of the pimples on Matt Damon’s face; to say that Tommy Lee Jones is shown in an unflattering light is perhaps the understatement of the year.
As to the script, which Greengrass wrote with film editor Christopher Rouse, it shows its hand far too early. CIA director Jones is determined to shut down Jason Bourne, who is becoming far too curious about his murky past. Agency up-and-comer Vikander takes charge of the operation, but has more empathy for Bourne than the director thinks necessary.
There you have it: a clothesline on which to hang spectacular but uninvolving action sequences, a plot that becomes transparent long before it should, and good actors doing their best to lend credibility to the proceedings. All of this caused my mind to start wandering, which is not the goal of a major Hollywood summer release.