There is a certain “wash, rinse, repeat” quality to the Jason Bourne franchise that makes it incredibly difficult to distinguish one from another.
Basically, all I can tell you about the first three movies is Bourne is chased from city to city by agents and assassins on a quest for secrets from his past, while an esteemed actor pulls the strings from a room full of computer monitors until Bourne turns the tables for a climactic showdown.
In many cases, such a formulaic approach to filmmaking means disaster, but these movies are so well made (with a glut of that credit going to writer/director Paul Greengrass) and Matt Damon has such a compelling take on your standard action hero, that it is easy to give it a pass.
But it’s been nine years since “The Bourne Ultimatum” put a nice little bow on the trilogy (with a less-than-successful Jeremy Renner reboot stuck in there somewhere) and now all the principals have returned, same formula attached, to give us “Jason Bourne.”
While the quality remains high, the seams really show in this installment, thanks to the fact all of the major questions about Bourne’s past have been answered. The swirling mystery this time around involves Bourne trying to find out how his late father figured into the program that trained him to become a killer.
It’s thin gruel, but it does lead to all kinds of exciting car chases and fist fights. The elder threat this time around is CIA director Robert Dewey, played by Tommy Lee Jones in a performance that was apparently shot in between naps.
Fortunately, there is some life over at the agency in the form of young analyst Heather Lee, who is played by the extremely talented actress Alicia Vikander. Here, Vikander does an excellent job of playing a character with murky motivations, even if her American accent exists only in theory.
There is some good stuff here, as Damon is a solid as ever and the action sequences on the Las Vegas strip are impressive. But this is very, very well-trod territory and the result is the weakest film in the series.
Of course, being the worst Bourne film still means it’s better than the vast majority of action flicks that will come out this year, so fans of the genre should leave the theater happy. Otherwise, it’s probably best for everyone involved if this is when a battered and bruised Jason Bourne finally walks slowly into the sunset.
“Jason Bourne” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.