Jason Bourne **1/2

Bourne is back, but not quite at his best.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Matt Damon said he would not come back to the “Bourne” franchise unless Paul Greengrass, the director of “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), also returns as the director. Accordingly, both are back for “Jason Bourne,” but the real question for fans is, is the movie worth the nine-year wait?

For the most part, yes. The action is tense and exciting, and the story smartly brings Bourne (Damon) into 2016 while illuminating previously unknown facts about his past (including his real name!). This isn’t the best movie the franchise has offered (that’s “Supremacy”), but it’s a worthy successor that of course opens the door for more to come.

If you haven’t seen the earlier “Bourne” films, starting with “The Bourne Identity” (2002), they are a must prior to seeing “Jason Bourne.” In fact, re-watch them – if you don’t you’ll be lost in the early stages here, wondering why the CIA is after Bourne, why he went rogue, etc. Making matters worse is Bourne’s lack of a clear motive for his actions, which is the fault of co-writers Christopher Rouse and Greengrass. The viewer should never wonder why a protagonist is doing what he’s doing, and if the filmmaker chooses to deliberately withhold that information, it better be a darn good payoff (sadly, it isn’t).

The globe-trotting film hits Greece, Iceland and Virginia in the first ten minutes: Rogue agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), long affiliated with Bourne, hacks the CIA for classified information on black ops programs, including the one that wiped Bourne of his memory. She intends to meet Bourne in Greece and share the info with him and the rest of the world – Edward Snowden style – but the CIA, specifically cyber specialist Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) and Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, scowling as usual), are hot on their trail. Dewey even dispatches an assassin (Vincent Cassel) to kill them before they leave Greece. Meanwhile, Dewey tries to bully a tech entrepreneur (Riz Ahmed) into sharing his users’ social media data with the government, which brings to mind contemporary issues of privacy and intrusive surveillance.

As per usual with this franchise, the action is quick and impactful, edited with rapid cuts to convey a sense of chaos and peril. The fistfights are expectedly raw and gritty, but it’s the car chases through Greece and Las Vegas that viewers will remember, and rightfully so. The sequence in Vegas is especially abusive to the strip and the poor patrons foolish enough to drive on it (you’re not supposed to think of the civilian fatalities this kind of reckless driving most definitely causes), but it’s also directed with precision and ends in a startlingly creative manner.

It’s fun to see Matt Damon back in this role, as it remains enjoyable to watch him uncoil the layers of Bourne’s mysterious past. A few head-scratching moments aside, “Jason Bourne” delivers on its promises.

Did you know?
Jeremy Renner, who played lead character Aaron Cross in the tangential “The Bourne Legacy” (2012), does not appear in “Jason Bourne.”

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