Matt Damon

Jason Bourne has daddy issues, and he’ll stop at nothing to work them out. The fifth installment in the popular spy-thriller franchise about an amnesiac CIA assassin, Jason Bourne supposedly deals with such topical issues as cybersecurity and civil unrest, but the characters’ motivations for inflicting damage to people and property seem entirely personal.

As the film opens, our hero (Matt Damon) is off the grid somewhere in Greece, making his living as a bare-knuckle brawler. Meanwhile Nicky (Julia Stiles), his old CIA ally, has fallen in with a Julian Assange type (Vinzenz Kiefer) and hacked into the agency’s computers to copy all their black-ops files. (Spoilers follow.) Whether Nicky is merely trying to expose evil or working toward some other goal is never revealed, because she’s killed off by a CIA assassin, referred to only as the Asset (Vincent Cassell), moments after handing Bourne the hard drive with the files. Back in the U.S., the CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones) directs all his resources toward eliminating Bourne now that he has resurfaced.

The CIA doesn’t want its dirty tricks exposed, but Bourne wants to know who killed his father and whether his father was the one who made him the ruthless government killer he’s been most of his adult life. The files reveal that Bourne Sr. started the whole evil program but suffered a crisis of conscience and was killed by the Asset. Perhaps we’d feel more sympathy for our hero if not for the joyless, workmanlike way he goes about wrecking everything and killing everyone in his path to uncover family secrets he believes will set him free. In fact, much of Jason Bourne consists of grim action set pieces interspersed with long sequences of people sitting in front of computer screens. Somehow the movie is simultaneously frenetic and static, going nowhere really, really fast.

After an endless cat-and-mouse car chase through Las Vegas, in which Bourne ends up killing the Asset, we’re left with little clue about what’s transpired over the previous two hours. The world doesn’t seem any safer now that the “bad guys” have been eliminated, and Bourne seems no more at peace with his past than he was at the beginning. In the last shot he disappears into the crowd the way Bill Bixby did every week on the old Incredible Hulk TV show. He’s beaten everybody up again, but this hasn’t done him any good.   v