Bourne again

Newest flick high on adrenaline, low on humanity

Starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles and Tommy Lee Jones. Directed by Paul Greengrass. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

Tommy Lee Jones, I’m almost sorry to say, looks epically weary and worn out in Jason Bourne. In part, it’s built into his role here—he’s the CIA director who’s become Bourne’s chief nemesis and mortal enemy, and he’s terminally pissed off that the agency’s rebellious, custom-made, state-of-the-art assassin has gone rogue and keeps resurfacing.

He seems tired of it all right from the start, and he’s not the only one. When he finally does have a face-to-face showdown with Matt Damon’s Bourne, writer-director Paul Greengrass has them both looking like gargoyles of the sort you might expect to find at the gates of some action-movie hell. It’s almost as if this resurrected franchise, with its endlessly renewable superhero, has an increasingly noticeable death wish but just can’t stop itself from charging onward. Not yet, anyway.

The latest Bourne installment has plenty of energy and flash, but most of that comes from its rapid-fire editing, pell-mell pacing, and the wall-to-wall “suspense themes” of its musical score. The result, onscreen, is an action movie that is “riveting,” but only in the sense that it never sits still and never lets up on its narrative haste and agitation.

The script gives us little reason to care much about any of the characters, apart from Damon’s Bourne, and he’s mostly riding the wave of his pre-existing status as the series protagonist. The sheer presence of Jones, Julia Stiles and Alicia Vikander in key parts provides the only glimmer of human gravitas in their respective supporting roles.

A distinctive chunk of the action is mostly a matter of characters working with computer keyboards and video screens. And much of the film itself has the weightlessness of digital animation. Even the most ferocious action scenes are loud and frenzied, but almost completely devoid of physical and visceral actualities.

The film is already a box office success, but the most interesting thing about it, for me, is the overall impression that it makes—a paradoxical mixture of heroic fury and extravagant futility.