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Film review: Jason Bourne – clichéd, generic sequel reunites Matt Damon, Paul Greengrass

Great action and chase scenes marred by flimsy back story and pedestrian plot in fifth outing for Robert Ludlum’s government-service killer with memory loss

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 3:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 3:30pm

2/5 stars

As the golden boy of amnesiac assassins returns for more head cracking and soul searching, just how much more mileage is there after 12 novels, an excellent trilogy (2002-2007), and the decent (but Bourne-less) “sidequel” The Bourne Legacy (2012)? Not much, it turns out, despite the return of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass.

After the obligatory flashback of Bourne killing lots of people real good, we’re straight into a newish plot involving conflicted CIA director Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander’s ambitious counter-insurgency expert and tech entrepreneur Riz Ahmed.

It kicks off with Bourne’s old ally Julia Stiles hacking his file, and telling him there’s more he needs to know about his past. But unless his surname’s Skywalker, how much worse can it get? You can practically smell editor-turned-screenwriter Christopher Rouse cooking up a flimsy family back story to bring our hero back into the fray.

Matt Damon, in Hong Kong, talks The Martian and his pride in Jason Bourne role

At least Greengrass dives straight into the action. Think urgent music, glitchy cinematography, lots of anxious touch-typing and scene after scene of the globetrotting Bourne nearly killing people, before black ops spooks (headed by the evil Vincent Cassel) arrive to finish the job. You know the drill, and that’s the problem: it’s entirely generic, even if it’s a genre that the Bourne series revolutionised.

The cast are, as expected, en pointe, and there’s a fantastic motorbike chase through Athens, as protesters fling fiery debris from the rooftops, which feels like you’re watching Crank and blinking at the same time. But the dialogue is clichéd (Cassel, you’ll note, “works alone”, while Jones warns him, “Don’t make this personal!”), the plot is full of holes, and the pace is hectic to the point of irritation.

Bourne, as originally conceived, was a broken man sweeping his past for a shred of humanity. He found that nine years ago in The Bourne Ultimatum. The character we meet today is unkillable, unlikeable, and more Bond than Bourne.

US$1 million a line? Matt Damon a man of few words in new Jason Bourne film

Perhaps the fact he’s as monosyllabic as Arnie circa 1986 suggests that there’s really nothing more to say.

Jason Bourne opens on July 28

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