Bourne’s back again with plenty of thrills

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - RICHARD ROEPER

What with all their in­ter­na­tional ad­ven­tures through the years, it seems like only a mat­ter of time be­fore Ja­son Bourne and Ethan Hunt cross paths, whether it be in a crowded town square in Greece or a wind­ing boule­vard in Paris — or maybe while the two of them hap­pen to be in­volved in crazy high­speed chases at the same time.

Hey, man. What are YOU do­ing here?

Just as Tom Cruise con­tin­ues to carry the “Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble” ac­tion fran­chise in his 50s, the 45year-old Matt Da­mon still kicks butt in se­ri­ous fash­ion in his fourth ap­pear­ance (and first since 2007) as Ja­son Bourne in the film of the same name.

In “Ja­son Bourne,” our man Ja­son knows who he is — but he doesn’t re­ally know who he is. The guy is still in need of some se­ri­ous ther­apy, but he’s way way WAY off the grid, cop­ing with mi­graine-in­duc­ing flash­backs and carv­ing out a liv­ing as a bare-knuck­led street fighter in dusty out­posts. The al­ways ex­cel­lent Ju­lia Stiles re­turns as Ja­son’s back-in-the-day ally Nicky Par­sons, who is now work­ing with an Ed­ward Snow­den-like hacker to ex­pose the CIA’s most covert and in some cases most sin­is­ter black-ops pro­grams.

When Nicky breaches the CIA’s sys­tem and learns a shock­ing se­cret about Ja­son’s past, she tracks him down in Greece, and they ren­dezvous in the mid­dle of a po­lit­i­cal re­volt.

Few di­rec­tors in the world can match Paul Green­grass’ abil­ity to stage and shoot ac­tion scenes such as the breath­tak­ing, chaotic se­quence in Greece, as teams of CIA op­er­a­tives and a lone con­tract as­sas­sin known as “The As­set” (a chill­ingly ef­fec­tive Vin­cent Cas­sel) hunt down Nicky and Ja­son amid the mad­ness of a full-scale riot. It’s ac­tion film­mak­ing at its finest.

Tommy Lee Jones does his world­weary, smartest-guy-in-the-room thing as CIA di­rec­tor Robert Dewey, a coldly prag­matic and morally bank­rupt S.O.B. who wouldn’t know a mo­ment of self-doubt if it splashed him in the face. (It’s one of Jones’ best per­for­mances in re­cent years.)

Dewey’s re­ac­tion to the first Ja­son Bourne sight­ing in years is sim­ple: Kill him. Good luck with that, Dewey. Newly minted Os­car win­ner Ali­cia Vikan­der (“The Dan­ish Girl”) plays Heather Lee, a bril­liant and am­bi­tious techno an­a­lyst with the CIA who ar­gues in favour of bring­ing Ja­son home in­stead of tak­ing him out. She thinks she’s play­ing Dewey, Dewey thinks he’s play­ing her, and every­body keeps un­der­es­ti­mat­ing Ja­son, which seems pretty stupid con­sid­er­ing his track record.

Even if you’ve seen all the “Bourne” films, there are times when mat­ters get mud­dled.

Still, “Ja­son Bourne” is the best ac­tion thriller of the year so far, with a half-dozen ter­rific chase se­quences and fight scenes. At one point the ac­tion swings to Ve­gas, and while some of what tran­spires is al­most car­toon­ishly over-thetop, it’s great fun.

Da­mon is out­stand­ing as the tightly wound, per­pet­u­ally rest­less and con­flicted Ja­son Bourne. Vikan­der is faced with a tough chal­lenge, as the Heather char­ac­ter has to shoot out line af­ter line of tech­ni­cal jar­gon and act as a kind of in­ter­preter to the au­di­ence, ex­plain­ing how the CIA can track Ja­son. And, like Stiles’ Nicky, Heather is a pa­triot who isn’t en­tirely con­vinced Ja­son is a traitor.

“Ja­son Bourne” doesn’t have the fresh kick of the first “Bourne” film from nearly a decade and a half ago, but Da­mon is a more ac­com­plished ac­tor than he was in 2002, and the more we know about this char­ac­ter, the more we feel for him, and it’s a damn treat to see him again af­ter all these years.

UNIVER­SAL PIC­TURES, TNS

Matt Da­mon and Ju­lia Stiles in a scene from the new film “Ja­son Bourne.”

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