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Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 03:14 pm

Scattered “Bourne” a High-Tech Headache

There’s not much to Jason Bourne, the fifth entry in Universal Pictures’ spy franchise.  To be sure, it resembles a movie and passes as an action film by today’s standards, which is pretty low indeed.  There’s little in the way of story, nothing resembling character development and were it in cahoots with the company that makes Aleve or other pain medications, I wouldn’t be surprised – this thing generates nothing but headaches.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is on the hunt in Jason Bourne.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

The paper-thin plot is kicked off by former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) when she hacks into the U.S. Government’s database and steals files pertaining to the various programs they’ve used to make killing machines like Jason Bourne (Matt Damon).  Turns out, she stumbles across an interesting factoid concerning Bourne’s past and contacts him about it. Of course, the CIA has sent their agents to track her down and get that info, which sets off a movie-long chase to get Bourne and this sensitive information.

Yep, it’s just one long chase across two continents that features four very long action set pieces intercut with a glowering Tommy Lee Jones as CIA Director Robert Dewey and Alicia Vikander as scheming government computer analyst Heather Lee. There’s also a minor subplot involving a Bill Gates-like tech guru striving for everyone having personal privacy on the Internet. This is there to give the story a bit of weight and it just doesn’t fly.

CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and computer analyst Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) look for the ever-elusive Jason Bourne.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Director Paul Greengrass’ approach to action films is an acquired taste for old fogies like me but is probably an acceptable approach for today’s audiences.  The filmmaker’s aesthetic is one that suggests action, rather than show it.  All of the four bloated set pieces are a flurry of images featuring hurtling cars, tumbling people or thrown objects, captured by Greengrass’ ever-moving camera and cut together at a rate resulting in some shots lasting less than a second on screen.  We rarely see complete follow-through on any one crash, punch or gouge.  That these sequences run on far too long doesn’t help and the ultimate effect is tedium with a pinch of eyestrain and nausea for good measure.

As I say, this is filmmaking for a new generation, one that would probably consider the seminal car chases from Bullet and The French Connection as dull because they commit the cardinal sin of starting slowly and building towards a rousing climax, our sight of the cars shown in complete, unbroken takes.  And heaven forbid a fight be filmed like the old Jackie Chan sequences in which the camera didn’t move so as to capture all that the actor – a special effect unto himself – could do. No, this old school stuff is considered passé by today’s young filmgoers and that’s too bad. They just don’t know what they’re missing.


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