Much like its title character, “Jason Bourne” is an efficient automaton of a movie, stripping away any pesky qualifiers – “Identity,” “Supremacy,” “Ultimatum” – and getting down to what the whole exercise is about in the bare-bones title.
Nine years after their last outing (and ignoring a misguided spinoff attempt), star/producer Matt Damon and director/co-writer Paul Greengrass have reunited, offering the same visceral, kinetic thrills. The result is a movie that provides the requisite pacing and action, as long as one doesn’t spend too much time fretting about the plot or logistics.
Much will likely be made of the timely central conceit, which involves the government using technology for mass-surveillance purposes. Moreover, if Jason Bourne is a modern-day answer to James Bond, it’s worth noting the only nefarious group here is the CIA, without requiring made-up acronyms like SPECTRE, as the preoccupation with Bourne stretches all the way to the agency’s director (a perfectly cast Tommy Lee Jones).
Whatever the foundation in Robert Ludlum’s novels, the politics now are merely an excuse to launch the taciturn hero into action, with Damon’s purposeful walk, set to that pulsating music, representing its own kind of special effect.
Suffice it to say that the one-time killing machine has been living off the grid, before being drawn back by an old ally (Julia Stiles). She’s armed with hacked, top-secret documents related to the shadowy forces that molded him, which, the agency frets, “could be worse than Snowden.”
That again puts the CIA on Bourne’s tail, with the director dispatching an “asset” (Vincent Cassel) every bit as talented as Bourne in the art of mayhem to neutralize the threat, auguring an inevitable showdown.
Beyond Jones, the supporting cast includes Alicia Vikander (coming off her Oscar win for “The Danish Girl”) as an ambitious CIA analyst leading the operation; and Riz Ahmed (currently featured to better effect in HBO’s “The Night Of”) as a tech billionaire, whose privacy-invading app is enlisted to do the government’s bidding.
The action is characteristically stylish and breathtakingly fast. Those sequences only hit a serious skid during a climactic car chase along the Las Vegas Strip, which seems to have parachuted in from the “Fast & Furious” movies and pays even less attention to the laws of physics than it does local traffic ordinances.
In interviews promoting the movie, Greengrass has been fairly open about his reticence in returning to these films, and his irritation over “The Bourne Legacy,” which Universal produced without him. Damon was equally candid about helping coax Greengrass back by arguing that it would be foolish to walk away from a franchise with such a built-in fan base.
From that perspective, there’s nothing complicated about why Jason Bourne wasn’t left out in the cold.
Universal tried the equivalent of a “Bourne” cover band. Now they’ve brought back the original group to play the hits. And kicks. And explosions.
“Jason Bourne” opens July 29 in the U.S.