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Cinema Signal: To emulate Ludlum you'll have to do better than this. MOBILE version |
. "Jason Bourne"

When I first read about this sequel to one of my favorite series of action thrillers my first thought was: "well, they'd better get Matt Damon to play the CIA amnesiac. He was so perfectly cast for the role in the screen versions. And, when I learned that they had done esactly that, I was really looking forward to a reprise of my enjoyment.

After seeing it, I can only report that, while the Damon continuation is worth a few points, there's something missing.

It's not director/writer Paul Greengrass, who gave us the last two "Bournes." And he wastes no time giving us a taste of what we may be in for with a big, boisterous action sequence -- telling us there's a bad boy in town -- and for a moment I thought we were back in Jason-land again with exuberant action ahead.

And he tops that with an even more memorable motorcycle-SUV chase as part of the climax toward the end. This is one of Greengrass's specialties.

But it's the in-between that's the problem. There's something missing.

That would be Robert Ludlum. The guy who created Bourne, who is no longer with us.

The impression I received was that Greengrass and screenwriter Christopher Rouse, lacking the Ludlum source material, took the story elements as they were left in "The Bourne Ultimatum," (2009) and vamped with that the best they could, making sure everyone got that Bourne's memory had been restored, for example. But the new/old Bourne is still subject to the CIA wanting to deceive him so that they can take him off the grid before he can expose their most guarded secrets. Company director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), a study in deception, hires his best sharpshooter to take Bourne down.

But, even as Bourne struggles with the memories flowing back into his mind, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), a computer ace who was his one loyal ally at the agency, calls to fill him in on what she found in a company archive that explains his recruitment and still-active threat to his life. Seems a little late but, oh well.

But that storyline doesn't get very far because we shift to the currently hot (at the boxoffice, off awards) Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee, a company babe whose specialties include computer hacking to a degree that would be the envy of the hacking underground -- if the computer gymnastics shown here were more than fictional, that is). But worse is her loyalty, which is as flexible as a horsewhip. And she's convincing the brass that she knows how to get to Bourne which, of course, she does..

Kinetic and deceptive as this espionage world may get, and as convincing as Damon's toughness can be portrayed, the film draws a blank at the borderline between action and creative thought. It's as though once a green light was given to the project, the excitement blinded the creative team to what, exactly, they were sequelling.

What we get are computer tricks that don't exist.

While the filmmakers didn't have the originating author's development of a fourth Bourne book from which to adapt this sequel we get an action thriller that creates some tension and enertains to a point, but with few outward signs of being from the Ludlum pen. When you think about it, perhaps Ludlum didn't write a fourth Bourne book because he knew he had exhausted the dramatic potential of his subject. He knew when to quit. His story was as far as he wanted to take it.

Which leaves me with the hope that Greengrass doesn't have in mind the same sort of exploitative overextention of Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Matt Damon and Julia Stiles
CIA rogues Jason Bourne and Nicky Parsons, his agency protector and friend.

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