Jason Bourne’s Identity Crisis

Matt Damon races across the world to find himself

Jul. 29, 2016
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Born as the protagonist of a Robert Ludlum page-turner, Jason Bourne became a new kind of cinema superhero. Transformed from a regular guy into a killing machine with extraordinary physical power and mental agility, Bourne needed no mask, tights or capes to make his mark. And unlike Spider-Man and his pals, Bourne had no idea of who he was or how he gained his strength.

When we meet him in the fourth installment of the movie franchise, simply titled Jason Bourne, he’s in Greece making a living from illicit fights, easily ko’ing other barrel chested muscle men with swift blows. Played again by Matt Damon, he’s traded his baby face for a ruggedly careworn visage. The troubled Bourne would probably have continued beating his head against a dead end had he not been contacted by Niki Parsons (Julia Stiles), a renegade ex-member of the secret Treadstone program that had transformed him. Now a hacker committed to bringing down the world order, she broke through the CIA’s firewall and loaded the Treadstone files onto a thumb drive. She plans to pull a WikiLeak but is able only to pass the drive to Bourne before being felled by CIA hitman who is after Bourne for his own reasons. 

Bourne doesn’t share Parsons agenda. “I’m not on your side,” he tells her comrade, a Berlin anarchist, before ko’ing him. He wants to understand who he is and then maybe get vengeance on the man behind it all, Robert Downey (Tommy Lee Jones).

Jason Bourne has a couple of subplots twined around the main story line as it grapples with public policy questions of privacy versus security. Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed), a Steve Jobs-like techno-kingpin who makes pronouncements about “transcending borders” to adoring geek audiences, has a dark secret: his start-up was funded by the CIA to provide a back door into every electronic device in the world, and he’s feeling guilty. Will Kalloor tell the world who he’s been in bed with? And then there’s ambitious CIA agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who joined the agency to “make a difference.” She seems to be working at cross-purposes with Dewey, who wants Bourne dead. She thinks Bourne is “a patriot at heart” who can be brought back into the fold.

Although writer-director Paul Greengrass is the talented filmmaker behind such excellent films as United 93 and Captain Phillips, the Bourne franchise has given him the opportunity to descend into the smash ‘em-up clichés of contemporary Hollywood action thrillers. Jason Bourne flits across the globe from Athens to Iceland, Washington to London, Rome to Las Vegas. Despite the visual intrigue of Bourne and Parsons’ clandestine rendezvous amidst the chaos of an Athens riot, with Molotov cocktails and teargas grenades exploding all around, too much time is spent on ridiculously over-the-top vehicle chases, photo-shopped and computer-generated to the point where nothing is visceral or dangerous or even possible. Needless to add, Jason Bourne ends with a road sign to the next sequel.

2 stars out of 4

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