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.

Tommy Lee Jones-Alicia vikander-1

(Photo by Jasin Boland – Courtesy of Universal Studios)

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024